Interview with Dr. Oscar Armando Castro López
Welcome, Dr. Oscar Armando Castro López! Could you please tell our readers about yourself?
I have a degree in social sciences from the Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas, a master’s in social studies from the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional and a doctorate in history from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, as well as a post-doctorate at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina. I am specialized in two special fields, the history of mentalities and the teaching of history. I am a teacher of the Secretary of Education of Bogotá and of the Francisco José de Caldas District University. In my projects, primary sources written between the end of the XIX century or the beginning of the XX are used, where, after consulting them in archives or libraries they are digitized to be uploaded to ATLAS.ti, as primary documents in order to undertake qualitative analysis in the hermeneutic unit.
What kind of projects are you working on right now?
Institutional projects in groups, networks or research seedbeds, within the framework of social research, focusing specifically on the following fields: historiography, teaching and didactics of social sciences and history, pedagogies of memory and processes of historical memory.
Recently, historiographic or social research projects have been developed, at the level of research articles, where contrasts are made by means of software, between the primary sources consulted, the theoretical-conceptual framework, the questions and the research objectives.
How do you tend to use ATLAS.ti?
Mainly, there must be clarity about the research horizon, a defined problem, generating questions, specific objectives and some previous categories resulting from the bibliographic balance; this situation is revealed fundamental, since the final result of the qualitative analysis depends on the coherence in the formulation of the research.
In this order of ideas, the primary written sources are digitized in PDF, whether they are documentaries, periodicals or others. Then they are loaded into the software, together with texts referring to a theoretical framework, in order to begin to make the conceptual cross between sources and references.
After the above, reading of the sources begins to mark and comment on the categories that are seen through the theoretical framework or that have emerged. Then, with this information constructed, relationships in networks can begin to be made, and these will give way to conceptual schemes in the data analysis.
What is your favorite tool or feature of ATLAS.ti?
A tool that greatly replaces manual work is the creation of codings. This characteristic of the software can work in two senses: on the one hand, to identify within the hermeneutic unit the established or emerging categories; on the other hand, in the correlation of research questions or objectives against sources or theoretical-referential frameworks. After that, we begin to refine and group these codings and then form the networks of meaning and thus raise the level of analysis.
Why did you decide to use ATLAS.ti?
This software was discovered in an academic course during the master’s studies, when even ATLAS.ti was in version 6. All the possibilities to make complex crosses of qualitative data in order to elaborate simple academic documents, articles or research thesis was immediately appreciated. Given the features of ATLAS.ti, I decided to use it for the elaboration of the master’s thesis and then the doctoral thesis; there it was possible to make levels of analysis in detail, as well as to find emerging categories, something complicated to do if the work had been done by hand.
Do you have any advice for our readers?
It is advisable to start getting to know this software from undergraduate studies in social and human sciences, because it is important that young people in these years enter into qualitative research through Grounded Theory, since it is precisely in the university years where writing exercises and information collection are essential for professional training.
Do you have any advice for ATLAS.ti users in your area?
Curiously, historians and, in general social researchers, especially in the Spanish-speaking world, are accustomed to manually working in research, which is not negative; in fact, the closeness to primary sources allows another level of hermeneutic analysis. However, it is appropriate to open the possibility of using digital tools such as this software. In this sense, it is advisable to start with small exercises, for example, to present informative texts in order to get to know the characteristics, possibilities and potentialities.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Considering that many tools that open up possibilities in research work also start from creativity, for example, in many moments of leisure and rest from one moment to the next an idea comes to mind regarding the project developed, why not take your phone and record an audio note or write that idea? And if so, would it be possible to upload it to ATLAS.ti to reinforce the research purpose? Would it be worth using it in this case? On the other hand, it is considered important to have all the information or data available online, not only so that such data can be consulted at any time and place, but also as a security condition to avoid losses due to computer attacks or hardware damage.
Thank you, Dr. Oscar Armando Castro López!
You can contact Dr. Oscar Armando Castro López by writing to: [email protected]