Querying the Data Across Documents in ATLAS.ti 8 Windows

March 20, 2018

ATLAS.ti 8 Windows offers a powerful tool for interrogating and retrieving your data: the Query Tool. This qualitative analysis tool allows you to examine your coded data by entering different combinations of your codes and/or code groups (i.e., the query), and ATLAS.ti hence shows which quotations fit your query. In addition to this, you can adjust the scope of your query, so that ATLAS.ti only focuses on a given set of your documents and/or document groups. (If you are interested in learning more about the query tool, please take a look at our video tutorial on the subject).

Applications of the Scope

Let’s imagine you have all of your data coded in ATLAS.ti, and you now want to compare the responses of your male and female participants. First, you would need to create two document groups, one for your male participants and another for female participants (for a review of grouping documents, please see our video tutorial).

From the Query Tool, you can adjust the scope and thus focus the search on male participants and then female participants. With one click, you can export the results thus compare the responses from your participants.

Adjusting the Scope of the Query for A Document or Document Group

To open the Query Tool, go to the “Analyze” tab and click on “Query Tool” (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Opening the Query Tool.

You can enter a query by double-clicking on any code and/or code group (or by dragging and dropping the code/code group into the query space). Use the operators found at the top to specify the exact query in which you are interested. In the example below, you can see a query for all the quotations that have been coded with any code from the group “effects of parenting negative” OR “effects of parenting positive”.  In this example, we are thus examining all of the participants’ responses regarding the different effects of parenting.

To create the query, do as follows:

  1. Select one code or code group (step 1 below).
  2. Select an operator from the three operator groups (step 2 below).
  3. Select another code or code group (step 3 below).
  4. Click on the diagram showing the query (step 4 below). This will allow you to see the quotations that meet the conditions specified by the query (step 5 below).

Figure 2. Setting up a query (i.e. combination of codes/code groups)

Now, let’s say we want to compare the responses from participants who have one child to the participants who have two children. Therefore, we will edit the scope. To edit the scope, do as follows:

  1. Click on Scope Tool, next to Query Tool in the ribbon (step 1 below).
  2. Click on Edit Scope (step 2 below).

Figure 3. Setting the Scope.

Once you click on Edit Scope, you will access the space where you will be able to specify the individual documents, or document groups, on which you will do the query.  You may either do the query in relation to a single document or document group or in relation to combinations of them. (For an explanation on how to select a combination of documents or document groups, see the section ‘Scope of a Query Combining Documents/Document Groups’, close to the end of this article).

Continuing with our example, we want to examine what families with one child said about the effects of parenting.  To specify the scope ‘Families with one child’, do as follows:

  1. Select the document group ‘Number of children::1’ (step 1 below).
  2. The results of the query with the specified scope will show on the right side at the bottom (step 2 below).
  3. Create a report (step 3 below).

Figure 4. The Query with its Scope.

You will notice that the list of quotations shown after applying the scope (step 2 in the figure above) correspond to those quotations that meet the conditions set by the query but only in relation to the document group specified in the Scope. Therefore, we can now see what participants with one child said about the effects of having children. In the blue bar at the bottom of the screen (on the left side), ATLAS.ti tells you how many quotations now come from the query based on the scope (“Term Quotations: 3”) as well as how many quotations that particular scope has in total (“Scope Quotations: 10”). Figure 5 illustrates this information directly.

Figure 5. Detailed illustration of the scope (document group) and resulting quotations from the query.

To create a report of the resulting quotations, just click on the “Report” button in the top ribbon. There you will see that ATLAS.ti offers some automatic report options (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. Report exporting options.

For example, if you select “Full Content Including Comments,” ATLAS.ti will automatically generate a report that includes the full content of the quotations, any comments these quotations have, along with any other codes, memos, or hyperlinks associated to the quotations. If you prefer to select which information to include in the report yourself, just click on the “Report” button (for an overview on exporting reports, please see our corresponding video tutorial).

Now, to gather the responses from families with two children, we would simply go to the “Scope Tool” tab to remove the current scope, and then we would load the document group “number of children::2” (i.e., set a new scope). Once again, ATLAS.ti would show the resulting quotations on the right-hand side, and we could save this result by exporting a report.

Scope of a Query Combining Documents/Document Groups

Since the scope works in the same way as the query, you can also create different combinations of your documents or document groups to refine your scope even more. Just as you would with a code query, you can double-click (or drag-and-drop) your document(s) and/or document group(s) to create combinations based on the set operators. For instance, continuing with the previous example, we could set the scope to focus on participants who have one child, two children, OR three children (in this case, we selected the first document group, the operator “OR”, the second document group, the operator “OR” again, and finally the third document group; please see Figure 7).

Figure 7. Setting a scope based on a combination of documents/document groups.

Based on this more complex scope, ATLAS.ti shows at the bottom of the screen that there are 10 resulting quotations that fit the scope and the query (out of the 30 quotations that fit the scope). Therefore, you can use the Set (or Boolean) operators to search for quotations from “Document/Group A” “and/or/one of/not” “Document/Group B.” Remember, you can always see what exactly each operator does by its icon (i.e., a Venn diagram showing which subset of the data it will focus on), and you can read a description of each operator by hovering the mouse over that operator (see Figure 8 for an example).

Figure 8. The Set (Boolean) operators for the scope.

Finally, you can always edit your scope by clicking on the options in the ribbon (under the “Scope Tool” tab). You can change an operator already in the scope term, you can swap an operator term (i.e., change the order) or delete a scope term (please see Figure 9).

Figure 9. Editing the scope.


Wrapping Up

This article outlines how to adjust the scope of the query tool, so that you may focus your query on a specific subset of your data. The scope tool functions in the same manner as the query tool. You can save your results by exporting a report. Thus, as we showed in this example, you can easily see what parents with one child said about the effects of parenting as well as what parents with two children said about the effects of parenting. In other words, you can compare and contrast your different sources of data and retrieve the answers to your research questions.

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