Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software, CAQDAS–i.e. the application of qualitative data analysis software–has become very common among qualitative researchers nowadays.
The first attempts at creating something resembling what we know today as qualitative data analysis software were made in the 60s, but it was not until the 80s and early 90s when they began to be widely recognized in the field of qualitative analysis.
Today the use of software to assist qualitative analysts is decidely a must, and although there is a considerable range of programs to choose from, not many of them provide the professional researcher with a full complement of all the tools required for the complex tasks involved in the data analysis of qualitative material. While each one of the multitude includes specific research tools for the handling and storage of different qualitative data, some of them can work only with text; the better ones can handle images, sound and video.
Some qualitative data analysis software tools build on hierarchical trees of categories, others let the researcher create their own “trees”, and others simply list the categories alphabetically. Most of them can create reports according to the analyst’s needs; some can be used as a first step in the analysis of data, and the results can be exported to other programs for further analysis.
Although the tools in the more professional qualitative data analysis software have revolutionized the way of doing qualitative analysis, there are still qualitative researchers who systematize their data manually in a reliable way.
Together with the increase of the use of these programs, many workshops to train researchers in the use of qualitative data analysis software have been developed. Some workshops are led by universities and research centers, and others are provided by private enterprises. Some are offered to small groups of researchers, others are offered to anyone who wants to learn to use these programs. But most of them are one-day or two-day training workshops, which guarantee participants that they will acquire the adequate skills to use a specific software in their own qualitative projects.
It is clear that the introduction of dedicated qualitative data analysis software has both expanded the ways in which qualitative researchers can collect data and also the settings and situations from which data can be collected. The other major impact of technology on qualitative work has been on how the analysis is done.
Computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) or qualitative data analysis software refers to the wide range of analysis software now available that supports a variety of analytic styles in qualitative work.