Various seminal scholars distinguish between “generic” software which can be used in qualitative data analysis and dedicated software packages. Generic software includes word processors, text retrieval systems and text-base managers while dedicated QDA software are categorized as “code and retrieve” systems code-based theory-builders (such as ATLAS.ti) and conceptual network builders including Inspiration. To this can be added programs which are being used out of their intended context; examples include process design and project management software which offer good conceptual mapping and “timeline” tools respectively. It is recognized, however, that some analysis software may be used in more than one of these modes and also that many users do not fully utilize all the functions of the software available.
QDA software programs, such as ATLAS.ti, are good at segmenting and sorting data, breaking down wholes into parts, and focusing attention on the collections of parts, at the expense of the wholes from which they come.
Consequently QDA software focuses the analyst toward segmenting and sorting, and away from intensive analysis of small bits of data, and away from viewing the parts in context. In regard to the “little bit of data, lot of right brain” strategy, the coding and collecting of segments of data using dedicated QDA software programs can provide the foundation for the process of intensive analysis of a small bit of data. For example, in order to find a piece of data to intensively analyze, a researcher would still be going through the process of noticing and collecting a piece of the data. When using QDA software, the preliminary coding, sorting and sifting, can generate pieces that become candidates for the intensive data analysis. The trick is to avoid intensive coding early in the analytic process. But even if you have done intensive coding you can always change the analytical direction, and shift your attention to a single piece of data for intensive analysis. In short, one approach does not preclude the other. In fact they can complement each other, and your QDA software can facilitate the shift to and from intensive analysis.
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