Article by Dr. Susanne Friese now featured in new SAGE publication
The SAGE handbook of “Current Developments in Grounded Theory” edited by Antony Bryant and Kathy Charmaz has just been published. It also includes an article on computer-assisted analysis: Grounded Theory Analysis and CAQDAS: A happy pairing or remodeling GT to QDA? written by our prolific certified trainer Susanne Friese.
QDA or CAQDAS?
Glaser (2003) strongly emphasized the difference between classic GT and ‘QDA’ (Qualitative Data Analysis). Similarly, I (the author Susanne Friese) have always placed value on using the term CAQDAS – Computer Aided Qualitative Data AnalysiS – as compared to QDA software (cf. Friese 2011). The term QDA software is easier on the lips, but it has been causing many misunderstandings. QDA software implies that the software is doing the analysis instead of being a tool aiding the researcher (who still must do the thinking). Automation is certainly an issue these days given the massive amounts of data available. But big data analysis is different from qualitative data analysis even if big data may consist of qualitative, i.e., non-numeric data (Friese 2016). Thus, we need to distinguish between the analysis of qualitative data and qualitative data analysis, whereby GT is a form of the latter. Knowing only one of the available packages may also lead to false conclusions. If, for instance, one was to try a GT analysis with QDAMiner, which is more apt to support deductive approaches, one can easily become frustrated and might reject CAQDAS to be unsuitable for GT. Another common pitfall is the translation of methodological steps to software functionality. As will be shown later in this chapter, equating the GT coding process with the function to apply codes in a software package can already be troublesome. Another issue might be that some researchers do not resist the temptation to use CAQDAS for a quick but dirty analysis. But this is no different from studies that were analyzed manually. Morse et al. (2009) wrote that there are many studies that refer to themselves as being GT-based but aren’t true GT studies. This, however, is not a reason for rejecting GT as methodological approach, nor should quick and dirty computer-assisted studies be a reason against the use of software. As Strauss already said: Research is ‘hard work’, and without working hard, neither a manual nor a computer-assisted analysis will result in a good piece of academic writing. Not all GT researchers of the first and second generation, though, condemn the use of software. Corbin writes in the current issue of Basics of Qualitative Data Analysis: The computer has the ability ‘to augment the human mind by doing a lot of the detailed and tedious work involved in many endeavors, thus freeing up the user to be creative and thoughtful. And this is what computer programs do for qualitative analysis’ (Corbin & Strauss 2015: Chapter 11, item 5207).
Corbin, Juliet & Strauss, Anselm L. (2008/2015). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (3rd and 4th editions). London: Sage.
Friese, Susanne (2011). Using ATLAS.ti for analyzing the financial crisis data [67 Paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Article 39, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101397 (Polling: 04/07/2015).
Friese, Susanne (2016). Qualitative data analysis software: The state of the art. Special Issue: Qualitative Research in the Digital Humanities, Bosch, Reinoud (Ed.), KWALON, 61, 21(1), 34–45.
Glaser, Barney G. (2003). The Grounded Theory Perspective II: Description’s Remodeling of Grounded Theory Methodology. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.
Morse, J., Stern, P. N., Corbin, J., Bowers, B., Charmaz, K., & Clarke, A. E. (2009). Developing Grounded Theory: The Second Generation. London: Routledge.