Product Tutorial

How to use the query tool in ATLAS.ti Desktop

The Query 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.
Susanne
Susanne Friese
Product specialist, trainer and author of the book "Qualitative Data Analysis with ATLAS.ti"
  1. Introduction
  2. An example query in ATLAS.ti Windows
  3. An example query in ATLAS.ti Mac
  4. Comparing respondent groups: Setting a scope
  5. Combining documents and document Groups
  6. Further resources

Introduction

ATLAS.ti 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 code groups (i.e., the query), and ATLAS.ti shows which quotations fit your question. In addition, you can adjust the scope of your query so that ATLAS.ti only focuses on a given set of your documents and document groups.

An example query

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. If you haven't already done so, create two document groups, one for your male and another for female participants. You find a video below that shows you how to do it.

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

To open the Query Tool, go to the Analyze tab or menu in the Mac version and select Query Tool.

You start by thinking about a question that you want to ask about your coded data. The example we show in this article is based on our Children & Happiness Sample Project.

Let's assume we want to find all quotations where respondents talk about culturally embedded beliefs and biology as reasons for having children. We need the set operator OR to find all quotations for both codes.

Entering a query in ATLAS.ti Windows

From the ribbon, we first select the OR operator. Next, we enter the two codes 'cultural embedded beliefs' and 'biology' from the category 'pro' into the two squares with the red dot. Those are placeholders. You can add codes or code groups into those boxes. The current active square has a blue frame around it. You can double-click on any code or code group or drag and drop a code or code group into the active square.

Once you have added codes to the query, the results will be displayed in the quotation reader at the bottom right of the query tool window.

Figure 1: Building a query using the set operator OR in ATLAS.ti Windows

If it is easier for you to learn by watching a video tutorial, the video below shows how to create a Boolean OR query in ATLAS.ti Windows.

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Entering a query in ATLAS.ti Mac

To retrieve the quotations of two or more codes, change the operator in the first line to any. This is the equivalent of the OR operator in the Windows version.

Figure 2: Building a query in ATLAS.ti Mac

The next step is to select the first code to the query, in this example, "pro: biology."

Figure 3: Adding a code to the query in ATLAS.ti Mac

You must click the plus button (add rule) to add more codes to the query.

Figure 4: Adding a rule to extend a query in ATLAS.ti Mac

Replace the entry "Undefined (Empty)" with is coded with code or child of code.

Figure 5: Selecting an operation in the ATLAS.ti Mac query tool

Select the second code that you want to query.

Figure 6: Building a query in ATLAS.ti Mac - Adding a second code to a Boolean OR query

The results will be displayed in the quotation reader below the query tool.

If you prefer to watch a video tutorial that shows the steps, the video below shows you how to build an OR query in the ATLAS.ti Mac query tool.

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Comparing respondent groups - setting a scope in ATLAS.ti Windows

Now, let’s say we want to compare the responses from male and female respondents.

  1. Click on the Edit Scope button in the ribbon. This opens a new region to the left in the query tool.

  2. Double-click on the document group Gender::female to set the scope to all female respondents. The results in the quotation reader on the bottom right of the windows will change. You now only see the quotations of female respondents.

Figure 7: Comparing respondent groups in ATLAS.ti Windows

To change the scope to male respondents, click with your mouse on the node with the current scope "Gender::female." Then click on the Delete button in the ribbon.

Note: If the query on the right-hand side is selected, you will delete the query. So make sure that you make the scope the active element on your screen.

To create a report of the resulting quotations, click on the “Report” button in the ribbon. ATLAS.ti offers some predefined report options.

Figure 8: Creating a report in the query tool in ATLAS.ti Windows

The Content plus Comments report is a good option if you have written many quotation comments. If you work with audio or video files, the reports showing quotation lists are appropriate. If you want to create a customized report, select the first option Report.

For further information on reports, see the ATLAS.ti manual - Creating Reports.

The steps on how to filter the results of a query by setting a scope are also shown in the video tutorial below.

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Comparing respondent groups - setting a scope in ATLAS.ti Mac

  1. In the second section of the query tool entitled "Documents and Document Groups," click on the + button to add a rule.

  2. Next, select Document of Group as your scope and select the document group Gender::female.

Figure 9: Setting a scope in the ATLAS.ti Mac query tool

In the quotation reader at the bottom of the query tool, only the quotations of female respondents are now shown.

If you want to compare those to the statements of male respondents, change the scope to the document group Gender::male.

Figure 10: Filtered results in the query tool in ATLAS.ti Mac

To create a report of the resulting quotations, click the Export button in the toolbar.

For further information on reports, see the ATLAS.ti manual - Creating Reports.

The video tutorial below also shows you how to filter results in a query by setting a scope.

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Combining documents and document groups

It is also possible to create different combinations of documents or document groups to refine a scope. You may want to compare responses by females of different educational levels. You combine two document groups using the Boolean AND operator to do this. The AND operator is sometimes also referred to as "all."

Suppose you want to set the scope to all female respondents with a high school degree. In that case, the prerequisite is having a document group for female respondents and another for respondents with high school education. If this is the case, you find the intersection of these two groups as follows:

ATLAS.ti Windows

  1. In the scope window, select the AND operator from the ribbon.

  2. Drag the document group "gender::female" into one of the squares and the document group "education::highschool" into the other (or whatever the names of your groups).

Figure 11: Setting a scope based on a combination of documents or document groups in ATLAS.ti Windows

As explained above, the filtered results will be shown in the quotation reader of the query tool at the bottom right of the window.

ATLAS.ti Mac

If you have been following the example above, there is still one active rule. If there is no active rule on your screen, click the + button.

  1. Click on the first field and select the AND operator.
Figure 12: Combining document groups as scope in the query tool in ATLAS.ti Mac
  1. Change the second field in rows four and five to Documents of Group.

  2. Add the document group education::highschool in row four and the document group gender::female in row five.

Figure 13: Combing document groups to set a scope in ATLAS.ti Mac

There are 12 quotations for female respondents with a high school degree in the project. However, none of these quotations are about biology or culturally embedded beliefs as reasons for having children. The result list is empty.

It is easy to change the document group to query a different educational level to see whether female respondents with a higher education level have mentioned either biology or culturally embedded beliefs as reasons for having children.

Note: Your document groups do not have to follow a naming convention. There is no need to use the double colon as in the example above (Gender::female). However, it is helpful to use prefixes like "Gender: male" and "Gender: female." This means that both groups are listed underneath each other, following the alphabetical order.

Further resources

If you need a combination of a number of documents or document groups more often, you can also create smart groups. How this is done is explained in the following videos.

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