Qualitative Data Analysis- What I Want

For some time now, I have been itching to get a good solution for qualitative data collection and analysis.  I and my collaborators have tried in fits and starts to use versions of google sites, wet paint (a wiki tool that seems to have been over run with Glee and Hanna Montana fansites), and wordpress.  Nothing quite stuck.

I have found some really engaging discussions of this from Dr. Michael Wesch’s blog about teaching ethnography.

Here is what I need:

  • STORAGE: Web-based server/ storage for a range of files: text; captured web pages, audio files, images, and possibly video captured form virtual worlds with a browser or some other screen-capture tool.
    • Can you record the video and sound from a VW interaction?  Surely…
  • PRIVACY: We need to be able to wall this material off from general web-browsing hordes and allow access only to a smaller subset.
  • SEARCHABILITY: Most options out there seem to have tags.  But these apply to the whole “object” (text file, web page, and so on).  Such tags are necessary.
    • In addition, I need a way to tag pieces or fragments of a file.  When I encounter a conversation or some other data point, I need to be able to tag or annotate it an then find those.
      • For example, let’s say I put a transcript of a chat in the archive.  It has some metadata: world, date, researcher.  This could include tags for that page.  In this new data “object,” I want to highlight one piece of text and annotate it as “play, conflict, business model.”  A different piece of text would be annotated “profit, corporate policy, emergent.”
        • Later, I want to search for “profit.”  Then I want a list of all the places WITHIN data objects where I annotated “profit.”
    • The goal is to be able to search within files/objects for relevant fragments to avoid having to do tedious scans of multiple objects.
  • Dynamic tagging: Let’s assume above is possible.  Now, I want to dynamically edit tags.  Let’s say I decide that all instances of “profit” should be re-named as “monopoly.”  Can a set or bundle of tags be combined or rename?  I know I can do this in delicious.
    • Also, it would be nice to have some hierarchy in the tags, or bundling.  So, if I realize two go together, I can combine them.
    • Also, I would like to access the list of tags when I need to tag or annotate.  So, for example, I have highlighted some text.  Now I want to add some tags.  To have a list or drop down box of previous tags will help jar my memory and also build a more cohesive set of tags.
    • Finally, I would like all the tags, be they for whole pages or for fragments, to be one list.  In other words, I don’t want two tag lists to maintain.
  • COLLABORATION: I noticed when looking at Diigo that it has a feature in which multiple users can comment on a sticky note.  Basically, this would allow me and collaborator to have a discussion about what a particular fragment of a file or page means.  That is a very attractive feature.

So far, options to explore include:

Google Wave.  Except it is no longer going to be actively supported.  So, nope.


  1. I like the sticky notes where multiple people can comment on a piece of text.
  2. It has a search feature which implies you can search tags and annotations which is the same as their sticky notes (I think). This would get at all my searchability needs.
  3. I think I could combine Diigo with a private-type wiki.  We would put our own field notes in the wiki and then tag and annotate public web stuff.


This is an interessitng tidbit from the site:

Everything you capture is automatically processed, indexed, and made searchable. If you like, you can add tags or organize notes into different notebooks.

How made searchable?  Will this get at my tagging needs?

Ikiwiki: Seems geeky…

A friend of mine who does a lot with IT suggested simply keeping a database of google doc files.  A separate file could have the tags for each file.  I think this is what he suggested.  Had the advantage of simplicity, but I am not sure it has enough of the features I was imagining.

Finally, it seems that perhaps some sort of wiki software could do all of this.  But which one? (one tool to compare.)

UPDATE: I used the wikimatrix tool and tried to get the right set of options.  I ended up with 40 (!yes!) to compare.



Filed under Research, technology

2 responses to “Qualitative Data Analysis- What I Want

  1. Osvaldo

    Dear Jordi, I came across your post and saw that I am not alone in this search too!!! LOL
    I am a researcher in the Brazilian Navy (Strategic studies) and have sooooo many papers, links, podcasts, books, articles, videos etc and I can´t imagine a way to catalogue all this.
    I tried Jabref, Bibus, Onenote but as reasearchers we expect to be around some 30 years from now. How can I guarantee that this softwares are going to be here at that time. Imagine if MS gave up Onenote; what about all my data?
    So to be in the safe side I am trying to come up with a part database and part manuscript to control all that.
    Everytime I read/watch/listen to something interesting I can take note this way:
    tag/ideia/keyword — where is it (name of the file/podcast/video) with localization within it (page/time/etc).
    In addition there would be a column with the physical localition of the object.
    Well I don´t know how to do this (access software, database, excel) but as soon as come across this idea I tell you.

  2. Osvaldo, glad you found this. You bring up some good points and I can see the appeal of building your own tool. I am sure one could build an Excel spreadsheet and even link it to an access database. But I am not sure how one could easily share this with distant collaborators.

    BTW, your English is great! I don’t speak Portuguese…

    In any case, whether one uses a web-based solution or desktop, back-up is essential. IN addition, you have the same problem with your made tools. I mean it is unlikely, but what if Access disappears?

    Did you see my follow up post? https://netsweweave.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/solution-to-qda-needs-alpha/ I describe using a mix of google sites and Zotero. SO far, it is going well.

    Meanwhile, there is an off-the-shelf product that may meet your (and my) needs: nvivo. There is a trial version if you want to try it. If you do, please let me know. The upside is it claims to be multi-media and it is built for tagging and then subsequent QDA pattern analysis and exploration.

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