Interview with Dr. Phillip D. Grant, Jr.

December 4, 2019

Thank you for your time today, Dr. Phillip Grant! Can you please tell our readers how you started using ATLAS.ti?

My journey with ATLAS.ti began in October 2016, when I took a qualitative data analysis course with Dr. Trena Paulus at the University of Georgia (UGA). In addition to her course, she offered a one course hour “boot camp.” What struck me about Dr. Paulus’ courses was that they allowed me to understand qualitative research at a more practical level than I had before; UGA’s qualitative methods program relies heavily on theory. Using ATLAS.ti allowed me to visually see how qualitative researchers organize transcripts, segment data, and codes for analysis. I realized immediately that ATLAS.ti would be an essential tool in my scholarly development. Moreover, I realized that others need a tool like ATLAS.ti to improve their scholarship and practice.

As previously mentioned, my first lesson using ATLAS.ti was with Dr. Trena Paulus at the University of Georgia. In her qualitative data analysis course and through the “boot camp,” I learned the basics, such as adding documents, creating codes, documenting through memos, and using networks. I used this fundamental knowledge of ATLAS.ti to write my dissertation proposal and conduct a pilot study.

My training continued in 2017 at the Corvallis ATLAS.ti Summer Workshop Series. For one week, I learned from notable ATLAS.ti trainers, such as Dr. Ricardo Contreras, Dr. Susanne Friese, Dr. Christine Silver, and Dr. Nicholas Woolf. I began with ATLAS.ti for Mac, because all of my training had been with the Windows version until that time.

The ATLAS.ti for Mac course with Dr. Contreras covered setting up a project, segmenting data, writing reflections in memos, coding, data exploration, data analysis, and outputs. The tools in this session that were new to me were auto-coding, co-occurrences, the query tool, the code-document table, and survey data.

For the rest of the week, I learned about five-level QDA with Dr. Silver and Woolf and approaches to qualitative data analysis with Dr. Paulus. Specifically, I learned about tool development with ATLAS.ti. and how the functions of ATLAS.ti are only as powerful as we make them. Every project in ATLAS.ti is unique. After completing the week in Corvallis, I applied for the trainer program and was approved.

How do you use ATLAS.ti in your own research?

ATLAS.ti has been critical to success in my career thus far. As previously mentioned, I used ATLAS.ti to conduct a pilot study for my dissertation.

My dissertation study focused on rural student experiences at an elite public institution in the Southeastern United States. I conducted interviews with 18 post-secondary students who had grown up in a rural area and asked them about their hometowns, their schools, their application to the university, and their experiences at the university. I gathered demographic data from each participant, which allowed me to create document groups based on several factors, such as socioeconomic status and parents’ education level. Using document groups allowed me to analyze my codes at a deeper level using the code-document table. Moreover, I was able to quickly retrieve and compare participants’ experiences using the query tool.

While I was completing my dissertation, I was also working as a graduate assistant at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG). I worked as a public service assistant with my supervisor, who conducted training for school board members across Georgia. My supervisor tasked me with figuring out a way to take survey data from various school board members across the state and generating some understanding of the qualitative answers. Using my copy of ATLAS.ti, I loaded the survey data into ATLAS.ti and walked my supervisor through responses based on document groups created by numerical survey responses. The results were written up in an internal report given to the Executive Director of the CVIOG. My work also resulted in the publication of an article in the American Educational Research Association’s Qualitative Methods Special Interest Group’s newsletter (Grant, 2018).

Currently, I am collaborating with a colleague at Southern Methodist University using ATLAS.ti Cloud. We have transcript data from 28 participants in which we will analyze how rural students chose their post-secondary institution. We are excited about the ability to collaborate seamlessly using ATLAS.ti Cloud, as it was much more difficult to work remotely in the past.

How do you tend to teach ATLAS.ti?

After returning from Corvallis, Dr. Paulus asked me to assist her in teaching both her qualitative data collection course and her ATLAS.ti boot camp course. In both classes, I taught a session on some aspect of ATLAS.ti; in the qualitative data analysis course, I explained how to use the code-document table and the query tool, and in the boot camp I showed how to use the survey tool. After assisting in these courses, other professors in the department asked me to provide overviews of ATLAS.ti as a tool. I gave tutorials to a total of 10 classes.

In addition to providing tutorials for professors and graduate students, I provided one-on- one tutoring to three UGA students. These three students were at different levels of their dissertation research. One student was at the very beginning of his study and was interested in using ATLAS.ti to complete his literature review. Another was in the thick of her data analysis phase and was struggling to come up with her initial code list. The final student was finished with her dissertation but was struggling to pull her data to publish in academic articles.

As an Assistant Professor of Educational Research, I have two primary teaching duties: education research courses and serving on dissertation committees in our Ed.D. program. Every semester for the past year, I have taught at least one section of our introduction to research methods course. In that course, I give students a qualitative data analysis project to complete. They are given the option to complete their analysis in any program, and some do choose ATLAS.ti. As a dissertation chair and methodologist, I encourage my students who are completing qualitative dissertations to use ATLAS.ti for their data analysis. In the future, along with my colleague and fellow ATLAS.ti trainer, Dr. Liz Pope, I will offer digital tutorials to our online Ed.D. students using ATLAS.ti.

Thank you, Dr. Grant!

You can contact Dr. Phillip Grant by writing to [email protected]

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