Latest Book Publication on Qualitative Analysis Using ATLAS.ti

September 8, 2017

Qualitative Analysis Using ATLAS.ti: The Five-Level QDA® method

– by Nicholas H. Woolf and Christina Silver, published by Routledge, 2017.

“Strategies are not the same as tactics. This core understanding of how things get done is at the root of the Five-Level QDA method. This is a method for working with ATLAS.ti that describes how expert users take best advantage of this powerful software. The purpose of the book is to unpack the unconscious processes that experts adopt so that they can be learned quickly and used by anyone. In a nutshell, the analytic strategies of our emergent and varied methodologies are by nature contradictory to the cut and dried, step by step operations of the software tactics we use to fulfill the strategies. The Five-Level QDA method consciously “translates” between the strategies and tactics, analytic task by analytic task, so that the full integrity of both strategies and tactics are not lost or sacrificed. Once learned and practiced a little, the conscious process of “translation” laid out in the method becomes second nature, and unconscious expertise develops quickly. The method and the “translation” process are independent of the kind of methodology or research field.

Part 1 of the book goes deeply into the principles. We explain why the nature of qualitative research and the nature of software used to conduct data analysis are indeed contradictory, and how there are different ways to address and reconcile this contradiction – by avoiding the contradiction, by compromising, or by going beyond or transcending the contradiction. We describe the drawbacks of the first two approaches and why the Five-Level QDA method takes the third approach. We then present the first two levels of the method which deal with the analytic strategies of a research project, and go on to describe the third level, the mechanics of “translating” these analytic strategies into software operations. This is a process of matching each analytic task to a software operation that leads either to selecting an existing software tool or constructing for oneself a combination of tools or using a tool in a custom way, which are the fourth and fifth levels of the Five-Level QDA process.

Part 2 is focused on applying these principles to ATLAS.ti.  We describe how ATLAS.ti is designed, how it works, and how it is presented on the screen in terms of its 13 “components” that can be acted on, which are an integral part of the “translation” process between analytic strategies and software tactics. We provide video orientations to each component on the Companion Website in order to make the conceptual information about each component concrete. The final chapter of Part 2 is Mastering the Process of Translation, the culmination of learning the method. This chapter lays out a five step procedure for accomplishing “translation” using our Analytic Planning Worksheet, and is illustrated with many worked examples. We also explain why “translation” requires a heuristic mindset, in contrast to the emergent mindset we naturally adopt when thinking about the analytic strategies of qualitative research, and the algorithmic mindset we naturally adopt when operating computer software. We maintain that a large part of expertise in harnessing ATLAS.ti powerfully is facility in moving among these three mindsets, which becomes much easier once one is consciously aware of the need to do so.

Part 3 provides case illustrations of real world qualitative research projects laid out in Five-Level QDA format: a straightforward literature review project contributed by Dr. Elizabeth Pope that is intended for new researchers and new users of ATLAS.ti, and a more sophisticated discourse analysis project contributed by Dr. Trena Paulus that is intended for those with some experience in research and in using ATLAS.ti. Video demonstrations of both projects are available on the Companion Website, as well as additional video demonstration of how “components” of ATLAS.ti can be harnessed in very different ways for different purposes, and how the Analytic Planning Worksheet is designed and used.”

To order the book, please click here.


About the authors:

 Nicholas H. Woolf has worked as an independent qualitative research consultant, coach, and trainer since 1998. He has conducted or consulted on numerous research studies, from single-site to multinational studies in various fields in the behavioral sciences using a wide range of methodologies, from highly structured content analyses, to evaluations, grounded theory-style projects, and interpretive phenomenology. As a trainer Nick specializes in teaching qualitative analysis using ATLAS.ti. He has conducted 285 workshops at over 100 universities and other institutions, primarily in the USA and Canada, for more than 3,000 PhD students, professors, and research and   evaluation consultants. In 2013 Nick introduced Five-Level QDA in his keynote address at the first ATLAS.ti user’s conference in Berlin (Woolf, 2014).


Christina Silver has worked at the CAQDAS Networking Project at the University of Surrey, UK since 1998. She is responsible for capacity-building activities and has designed and led training in all the major qualitative software programs, including ATLAS.ti, Dedoose, MAXQDA, NVivo, Transana, QDA Miner, Qualrus, and Quirkos. Christina also works as an independent researcher, consultant, and trainer, supporting researchers to plan and implement computer-assisted analysis, and contributing to doctoral research programs in several UK universities.

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