Qualitative Research Methods, Types & Examples

Although one important feature in ATLAS.ti is the coding function, also at ATLAS.ti we whole-heartedly support the statement that “analysis is more than coding.”
Susanne Friese
Product specialist, trainer and author of the book "Qualitative Data Analysis with ATLAS.ti"
life history
  1. About method and methodology
  2. Coding as method for analysis
  3. Analysis approaches suitable for CAQDAS-software based analysis
  4. Action Research
  5. Biographical Research / Life History Research
  6. Case Studies
  7. Conversational Analysis
  8. Discourse Analysis / Critical Discourse Analysis
  9. Ethnography
  10. Ethnomethodology
  11. Field Research
  12. Focus Groups
  13. Frame Analysis
  14. Grounded Theory
  15. Hermeneutic
  16. Life World Analysis
  17. Narrative Research
  18. Objective Hermeneutics
  19. Phenomenology
  20. Phenomenography

A. About method and methodology

If you may wonder what type of techniques and procedures for analyzing qualitative data have been described, here are a few:

  • close reading of a text, becoming immersed in the data, reading and re-reading a text, taking notes, reflecting on the data, and writing down interpretations
  • sequential text interpretation, taking a closer look at only a few texts or data passages, engaging in thought experiments and developing possible storylines considering different contexts, discussing possible data interpretations with a group of other researchers. Conclusions are reached through discursive validation.
  • an analysis of embodied lived experience before empirical data are collected via self-inspection and reflection of own experience. This is considered necessary as all empirical data are considered reductions and objectifications.
  • Coding: Coding in qualitative research means to assign a word or a phrase that summarizes a section of language-based or visual data. It can capture whatever is salient, the essence of what is in the section, or it can be an evocative attribute. Coding has become a popular method with the spread of the Grounded Theory methodology. However, it is also used as a method to structure and organize data outside the Grounded Theory framework. See, for example, the Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers by Saldana (2021).

What can be derived from the above is that there are many different methods to analyze qualitative data, and coding is only one. This is related to the various philosophical traditions and methodological frameworks behind it.

To learn how to put ATLAS.ti to good use in YOUR research, visit our Research Blog

Coding as a method for analysis

If you decide that coding is an appropriate method to approach your data analysis, there is still a lot to learn. If you never cooked a meal before, being provided with all the pots and pans necessary and the ingredients like meat, vegetable, eggs, cheese, spices, etc., your first meal very likely will not receive three stars – even if you took a class in how to operate the stove and other electrical appliances; how to prepare a sauce and theoretically knew how to prepare a tender steak.

Embarking on your first journey of analyzing data with the support of CAQDAS is very similar. Technically speaking, coding means attaching a label to a selected data segment. This is something you learn very quickly, like operating a stove. But when is a code just a descriptive label, a category, a sub-code, a dimension, or a theoretical code? Software is not able to tell you or makes such decisions for you. You either have a good teacher at your side with whom you can discuss your ongoing analysis, or you learn yourself via experience and with time through trial and error what works and what does not work – like finally managing to prepare your first perfect steak.

In both cases, you will learn to appreciate the software features that allow you to retrieve and review data, modify boundaries of coded segments, rename, merge or split codes, provide spaces for writing, spaces for you to reflect on the data, slots to “play” with the data, to rearrange it in different ways, to visualize them – these are all features that support the analysis process, and that help the user to immerse in the data, trying to grasp its meaning. Developing a sound code system is already more than coding in the technical sense of just attaching a label to a data segment. Furthermore, having coded the data is not the end of the analysis process. After coding, the information is prepared for further analysis and exploration. ATLAS.ti, for instance, offers several different ways to query your data. Frequently used tools are the Code Co-occurrence Table and the Code-Document Table. Results can be visualized and saved in various forms as a basis for new queries, such as identifying types and typologies in the data.

Analysis approaches and the suitability for CAQDAS based analysis

In the next section, an overview of various analysis approaches is provided.

You will find pointers on whether CAQDAS is a good choice and where researchers have used it for data organization and management only. References to studies that employed ATLAS.ti are also included.

The list is adapted from online QDA and sorted in alphabetical order.

Action Research

Action research consists of a family of research methodologies. The focus is a social problem rather than the theoretical interests of a scientist. It is a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams as part of a “community of practice.” The aim is to promote change by engaging participants in the process of sharing knowledge. It contains, among other elements also, components of field research. Data types include interviews, focus groups, participant observation, participant-written cases, and accounts. CAQDAS software is used to organize and sort data through coding. ATLAS.ti was, for example, used by Stratton (2008) in a project on improving communication between the Civil Justice System in Canada and the Public.

Further readings:

  • Dick, B. (2000) A beginner’s guide to action research [Online]. Available at

  • Schwandt, A. Thomas (1997). Qualitative Inquiry: A dictionary of terms. London: Sage.

  • Schön, David (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Basic Books.

  • Torbert, William. R. (2001). The practice of action inquiry, in P. Reason and H. Bradbury (eds), Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. London: Sage, pp. 250-260.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

Tools for your research
Figure 4: Tools for your research

Biographical Research / Life History Research

Biographical research is an approach to research that elicits and analyses a person’s biography or life history. It consists of an extended, written account or narrative of a person’s life. Life History and biographical research are today often used interchangeably. Data are collected in the form of narrative interviews. Of interest is the entire life story regarding its genesis and how it is constructed in the present. The data analysis steps involve thematic analysis, the reconstruction of the life history, microanalysis of individual text segments, contrastive comparisons, and the development of types and contrasting comparison of several cases. Rosenthal (2004) proposes a combination of methods to analyze biographical data. These are: objective hermeneutics (Oevermann et al. (1979, 1987), narrative analysis (Schütze, 1983) and themantic field analysis (Fischer and Kohli, 1987). ATLAS.ti was, for example, used by Patrizi (2005) in a biographical study on Domestic Violence, Dictatorship, and Democracy in Chile. Also, Unger (2009), a student of Schütze, works with ATLAS.ti to support particular parts of the analysis process. Another example is the study by Gouthro (2009).

Further readings:

  • Roberts, Brian (2001). Biographical Research. Open University Press.

  • Rosenthal, Gabriele (2004). Biographical Research. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium and D. Silverman (eds), Qualitative Research Practice. London: Sage. pp. 48–64.

  • Oevermann, Ulrich; Allert, Tilman, Konau, Elisabeth and Jürgen Krambeck (1987). Structures of meaning and objective Hermeneutics. In: Volker Meja, Dieter Misgeld and MicoStehr (eds.) Modern German sociology. (European Perspectives: a Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism). New York: Columbia University Press, S. 436–447.

  • Oevermann, Ulrich et al. (1979). Die Methodologie einer objektiven Hermeneutik und ihre allgemeine forschungslogische Bedeutung in den Sozialwissenschaften. In Hans-Georg Soeffner (ed.), Interpretative Verfahren in den Sozial- und Textwissenschaften. Stuttgart: Metzler, 352 – 434.

  • Schütze, Fritz (1983). Biographieforschung und narrative Interviews. Neue Praxis, 3: 283-93.

  • Fischer, Wolfram and Kohli, Martin (1987). Biographieforschung. In W. Voges (ed.) Methoden der Biographie- und Lebenslaufforschung. Opladen: Lekse + Budrich, pp. 25 – 50.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Gouthro, P.A. (2009) Life Histories of Canadian Women as Active Citizens: Implications for Policies and Practices in Adult Education. The Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 21(2), 19-36.

  • Patrizi, Patrizia (2005). Deviant Action and Self-Narration: A Qualitative Survey through ATLAS.ti. Journal of the Theory of Social Behaviour, Vol 25 (2), 171 -188.

  • Unger, Tim (2009). Anschluss verpasst? Plädoyer für eine berufsbildungstheoretische Aufarbeitung der biografieorientierten Bildungsforschung, in Karin Büchter, Jens Klusmeyerand Martin Kipp (eds.), Selbstverständnis der Disziplin Berufs- und Wirtschaftspädagogik, [email protected] Ausgabe Nr. 16 | Juni 2009 Available online:

Case Studies

A case study is based on an in-depth investigation of a single individual, group, or event to explore causation and find underlying principles. It may involve the collection of both qualitative and quantitative documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant-observation, and physical artifacts. Several analytic strategies for case studies have been described, like placing the evidence in a matrix of categories, pattern matching, statistical procedures, and coding has been proposed to approach analysis. An example where ATLAS.ti is used to store, organize and analyze case study data is the CPLS DATABASE. It is a collection of ethnographic case studies of literacy practice in various marginalized cultural communities. The kinds of data assigned to an ATLAS.ti project file includes the researchers’ field notes, interview transcripts, interview protocols, photos of environmental texts found in the communities under study (e.g., signs, books, advertisements, magazines, etc.), scanned artifacts collected during the conduct of the fieldwork (e.g., newspapers, flyers, memos), official documents, and all other collected data such as the demographic information of participants and video recordings. See Another example where ATLAS.ti has been employed for case study research is the thesis by Isabelle Kern (2004).

Further readings:

  • Miles, M., Huberman, M. & Saldaña, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

  • Runkel, P. (1990). Casting nets and testing specimens: Two grand methods of psychology. New York: Praeger.

-.Stake, R. (1995) The art of case research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Conversational Analysis

Conversational Analysis, or CA, is the study of naturally occurring talk-in-interaction, both verbal and non-verbal, to discover how we produce an orderly social world. It does not refer to context or motive unless they are explicitly deployed in the talk itself. The method was inspired by the ethnomethodology of Harold Garfinkel and further developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the sociologist Harvey Sacks. Today CA is an established method used in sociology, anthropology, linguistics, speech-communication, and psychology. Typically data are subjected to a fine-grained sequential analysis based on a sophisticated form of transcription. In addition to sequential analysis, coding approaches have also been used in recent years for identifying recurrent themes. However, the use of coding in conversational analysis is questioned as an appropriate form of analysis by some. Thus, ATLAS.ti would not be a natural choice when implementing a fine-grained CA analysis of score transcripts. I can become a useful additional tool if you look beyond the code-and-retrieve features of ATLAS.ti. See, for example, Konopásek, 2008.

Further readings:

  • Sacks, Harvey (1992). Lectures on Conversation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

  • Ten Have, Paul (1999): Doing Conversation Analysis. A Practical Guide, Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  • Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Konopásek, Zdeněk (2008). Making Thinking Visible with Atlas.ti: Computer Assisted Qualitative Analysis as Textual Practices [62 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2), Art. 12,

Discourse Analysis / Critical Discourse Analysis

Discourse Analysis (DA) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) encompass several approaches to studying the world, society, events, and psyche produced in language, discourse, writing, talk, conversation, or communicative events. Generally, any explicit method in discourse studies, the humanities, and social sciences may be used in CDA research as long as it can adequately and relevantly produce insights into how discourse reproduces (or resists) social and political inequality. The data collection can comprise a number of different data formats. A coding approach and the use of CAQDAS software are possible analysis choices. An example is provided by Graffigna and Bosio (2006). They used ATLAS.ti to analyze online focus groups within a discourse analytical approach.

Further readings:

  • Fairclough, Norman (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. (2003). London: Routledge.

  • Fairclough, Norman; Clive Holes (1995). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. Longman.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Graffigna, Guendalina and Bosio, A. C. (2006). The Influence of Setting on Findings Produced in Qualitative Health Research: A Comparison between Face-to-Face and Online Discussion Groups about HIV/AIDS. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5 (3), article 5.


Ethnography is a multi-method qualitative approach that studies people in their naturally occurring settings. The purpose is to provide a detailed, in-depth description of everyday life and practice. An ethnographic understanding is developed by closely exploring several sources like participant observation, observation, interviews, documents, newspapers, magazine articles, or artifacts. The results of an ethnographic study are summaries of observed activities, typifications, or the identification of patterns and regularities. An example where ATLAS.ti was used for analysis is Hernández and René's (2009) study and Greschke's (2007) online ethnography.

Further readings:

  • Brewer, John d. (2001). Ethnography. Buckingham. Open University Press.

  • Fielding, Nigel (2007). Computer applications in qualitative research. In: Handbook of Ethnography. Atkinson, Paul; Coffey, Amanda, Delamont, Sara, Lofland, John, and Lofland, Lyn (eds.). London: Sage

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Greschke, Heike Mónika (2007). Bin ich drin? – Methodologische Reflektionen zur ethnografischen Forschung in einem plurilokalen, computervermittelten Feld [45 Absätze]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 8(3), Art. 32,

  • Hernández, Luna and René, Jesús (2009). Photo-ethnography by People Living in Poverty Near the Northern Border of Mexico [35 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(2), Art. 35,


The founder of Ethnomethodology, Harold Garfinkel (1967, 2002), developed this method to understand better the social order people use in making sense of the world. As data sources, he uses accounts and descriptions of day-to-day experiences. The aim is to discover the methods and rules of social action people use in their everyday lives. The focus is on how-questions rather than why-questions. Underlying motives are not of interest. Ethnomethodologists conduct their studies in various ways focusing on naturally occurring data. Central is the immersion in the situation being studied. They reject anything that looks like interview data. Essential for an ethnomethodological analysis are self-reflection and the inspectability of data. Thus the reader of an ethnomethodological study should be able to inspect the original data to evaluate any claim made by the analyst. Steps in the process of data analysis include coding by type of discourse, counting frequencies of the kinds of discourses, selecting the main types, and checking for deviant cases. According to Fielding (2001), CAQDAS software is well suited to support the ethnomethodologist in conducting these tasks.

Further readings:

  • Coulon, Alain (1995). Ethnomethodology. London: Sage.

  • Francis, David and Stephen Hester. (2004). An invitation to Ethnomethodology. Language, Society, and Interaction. London: Sage

  • Garfinkel, Harold (2002). Ethnomethodology’s Program. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

  • Ten Have, Paul (2004). Understanding qualitative research and ethnomethodology. London: Sage.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Fielding, Nigel (2001). Computer Applications in Qualitative Research. In Paul A. Atkinson, Paul A.; Coffey, Amanda Jane, Delamont, Sara, Lofland, Johnk, Lofland, Lyn (eds), Handbook for Ethnography. London: Sage.

Field Research

Field Research examines the personal meanings of individuals’ experiences and actions in the context of their social and cultural environment. Its methodological roots are in phenomenology, social interactionism, and ethnography adapted by business studies and marketing research and used in other disciplines like medical research. The investigation is carried out in the naturalistic environment where the phenomenon occurs. Data collection methods include participant observation, depth interviews, group interviews, and projective techniques. Analysis procedures consist of description, ordering or coding of data, and displaying data summaries. For example, Nia Parson (2005) used field research methodology and ATLAS.ti in her dissertation study: Gendered Suffering and Social Transformations: Domestic Violence, Dictatorship, and Democracy in Chile.

Further readings:

  • Bailay, Carol A. (2006, 2ed). A guide to qualitative field research. Pine FrogePress.

Focus Groups

A focus group is a group interview mainly used in marketing research. The aim is to inquire about people’s perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, a service, a concept, an advertisement, or a packaging idea. The interview form is called a focus group because the participants are focused on a given topic and are selected based on whether they have something to say about the issue. Krueger & Casey (2000) describe the analysis as a process of cutting, pasting, sorting, arranging, and rearranging data by comparing and contrasting the relevant information; thus, a classical code & retrieve approach. They recommend the use of CAQDAS software for the analysis process. An example where ATLAS.ti was used to analyze focus groups is the study by Walsh et al. (2008).

Further readings:

  • Krueger R. A. and Casey, M. A. (2000) Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

  • Merton, Robert K. (1987). The focused interview and the focus group – continuities and discontinuities. Public Opinions Quarterly, 51, 550 -556.

  • Merton, Robert K., Fiske, M. and P. L. Kendall (1956). The focused interview.A manual of problems and procedures. Glencoe, III.: The Free Press.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Walsh, Tasanee R., Irwin, Debra E., Meier, AnderaVarni W., James, and DeWalt, Darren A. (2008). The use of focus groups in developing the PROMIS Pediatrics Item Bank. Qual Life Res. 2008 June; 17(5): 725–735. Available online:

Frame Analysis

Frame Analysis has generally been attributed to the work of Erving Goffman and his 1974 book: Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. This approach tries to explain social phenomena in terms of the everyday use of schemes or frames like beliefs, images, or symbols. The number of such frames available to people to make sense of their environment is limited by the particular society. Frame Analysis is primarily used in social movement theory, policy studies, health research, and management studies. A quantitative and a qualitative approach has been suggested when analyzing the data. In quantitative studies, the keyword approach is used to extract frames using hierarchical cluster or factor analysis. The software VBPro for example has specifically been developed for such procedures. About 20 years ago, The National Centre for Social Research in the UK developed a tool specifically for framework analysis, which has been integrated into various CAQDAS software since then.

Further readings:

Liz Spencer, Jane Ritchie, Jane Lewis and Lucy Dillon (2003), Quality in Qualitative Evaluation:
A framework for assessing research evidence. National Centre for Social Research. Available Online.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Trenz, Hans-Jörg. 2004. Media Coverage on European Governance: Exploring the European Public Sphere in National Quality Newspapers. European Journal of Communication 19 (3) 291-319.

Grounded Theory

Grounded Theory (GT) is an inductive form of qualitative research introduced by Glaser and Strauss (1967). It is a research approach in which the theory is developed from the data rather than the other way around. Data collection and analysis are consciously combined, and initial data analysis is used to shape continuing data collection. Strauss developed the approach further in disagreement with Glaser, providing a more pragmatic and systematic description of analytic steps, like the four phases of coding: open, axial, selective, and theoretical coding. Sociological research has been dramatically influenced by Grounded Theory. The coding-based constant comparison and the theoretical sampling strategy are widely accepted. In recent years, further variations of the grounded theory methodology have emerged. For example, Kathy Charmaz introduced a constructivist version, and Clarke discusses GT after the postmodern turn. As coding is central for a grounded theory analysis, CAQDAS software is well suited to support such an analytic approach. There are plenty of studies where ATLAS.ti has been used for a Grounded Theory analysis. See a few examples below.

Further readings:

  • Charmaz, Kathy (2006). Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis. London: Sage.

  • Clarke, Adele E. (2005). Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory After the Postmodern Turn. London: Sage.

  • Friese, Susanne (2022). Role and Impact of CAQDAS Software for Designs in Qualitative Research. In Uwe Flick (ed). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research Design. Chapter 19. London: Sage.

  • Friese, Susanne (2021). Grounded Theory Analysis and CAQDAS: A happy pairing or remodeling GT to QDA? In: Antony Bryant and Kathy Charmaz (eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Current Developments in Grounded Theory, 282-313. London: Sage.

  • Friese, Susanne (2016). Grounded Theory computergestützt und umgesetzt mit ATLAS.ti. In C. Equit & C. Hohage, Handbuch Grounded Theory – Von der Methodologie zur Forschungspraxis, S. 483-507. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.

  • Glaser, Barney G. and Strauss, Anselm L. (1967/1999). Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. London: Routledge.

  • Glaser, Barney G. (1998). Doing Grounded Theory. Issues and Discussions. Mill Valley, Ca.: Sociology Press.

  • Glaser, Barney G. (1992). Basics of Grounded Theory Analysis: Emerging vs. Forcing. Sociology Press.

  • Strauss, Anselm L. (1987). Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (German: 1991, Grundlagen qualitativer Sozialforschung. München: Fink).

  • Strauss, Anselm L., and Corbin, Juliet (2015 4th ed). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. London: Sage.

  • Strübing, Jörg und Bernt Schmettler (2004, Eds.). Methodologien interpretative Sozialforschung. Klassische Grundlagentexte. UTB.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Burden, Johann, and Roodt, Gert (2007). Grounded theory and its application in a recent study on the organizational redesign.Some reflections and guidelines. Journal of Human Resource Management, 5 (3), 11 – 18.

  • Cisneros Puebla, César A. (2000).Qualitative Sozialforschung in Mexiko [33 Absätze]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(1), Art. 2, Available online:

  • Fernández, Walter D. S. The grounded theory method and case study data in IS research: issues and design. Available online:

  • Pandit, Naresh R. (1996). The Creation of Theory: A Recent Application of the Grounded Theory Method. The Qualitative Report, Volume 2, Number 4, December 1996. Available online:


The hermeneutic tradition stretches back to ancient Greek philosophy as a theory of interpretation. In the middle ages and the Renaissance, hermeneutics emerges as a method to identify the meaning and intent of Biblical scripture. Today hermeneutics is also used as a strategy to address a broad range of research questions like interpreting human practices, events, and situations. The analytic aim is to understand „the other. “ Researchers bring their conviction to the analysis, but they need to be open for revision. A tentative understanding is developed in collecting data, which is then tested against reality. Further understanding is gained if discrepancies between the current interpretation and the new data are recognized. Thus, the process of understanding is characterized by constant revisions. The researcher’s concept of the whole is corrected as each interpretation is compared against the parts of the text. This is referred to as the hermeneutic cycle. Flick (1994) demonstrates how this can be implemented when working with ATLAS.ti. See reference below.

Further readings:

  • McNaab, David E. (2010, 2ed ed.). Research Methods for Political Science: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods. London: Routledge.

  • Ramberg, Bjørn and Gjesdal, Kristin (2009). In Edward N. Zalta (ed.): The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Summer 2009 Edition.

  • Wallach, Harald (2009, 2. ed). Psychologie – Wissenschaftstheorie, philosophische Grundlagen und Geschichte: Ein Lehrbuch. Kohlhammer.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Flick, Uwe (1994). Hermeneuten-Zirkel am PC – Erfahrungen mit ATLAS/ti aus einem Lehr-Forschungsprojekt, in Boehm, Andreas, Mengel, Andreas, Muhr, Thomas (eds), Texte verstehen: Konzepte, Methoden, Werkzeuge. S. 349-358. Gesellschaft für Angewandte Informationswissenschaft (GAIK) e.V.; Konstanz: Univ.-Verl. Konstanz, 1994. Available online:

  • Novatzki Forte, Elaine C., Pires, Denise E. and Trigo Verde Pires, Salvato V. (2017). The dialectic hermeneutics and the ATLAS.ti Software: A promising Unit. Texto Contexto Enferm, 2017; 26(4):e0350017. Available Online.

  • Rambaree, Komalsingh (2014). Three Methods of Qualitative Data Analysis Using ATLAS.ti: ‘A posse ad esse.’ In Susanne Friese and Thomas Ringmayr (eds). ATLAS.ti User Conference 2013: Fostering Dialog on Qualitative Methods. Conference proceedings. Universitätsverlag TU Berlin. Available Online.

Life World Analysis

The term originally comes from phenomenological sociology, which refers to the familiar world of everyday life. In analyzing 'lifeworlds,' one attempts to identify the individual structures within them. A lifeworld can be understood as a physical environment even though the various inhabitants do not necessarily attribute the same meaning to the same space. Cats and people, for example, may inhabit the same physical environment but live in different lifeworlds as cupboards, window sills, and areas underneath chairs have different significances for both of them. The aim is the reconstruction of the various subjective perspectives. To achieve this, several data types are employed, like document analysis, interviews, standardized surveys, or observant participation. The latter means that the researcher goes into the social “field” and tries to get as close as possible to the linguistic and habitual customs of the people examined. Not surprisingly, a hermeneutic approach to analysis is chosen. When the need arises, this is combined with codification procedures; thus, CAQDAS software is a possible choice to support the process of data analysis.

Further readings:

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

Narrative Research

Narrative research is about stories of life experiences. Study participants are asked in long interviews to give a detailed account of themselves and their story rather than to answer a predetermined list of questions. Other forms of data include life histories, journals, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies. The aim of the analysis is to gain insights into a person’s understanding of the meaning of events in their lives. After transcription, narratives may be coded according to categories deemed theoretically important by the researcher (Riesman, 1993). Another approach is a formal sequential analysis with the purpose of identifying recurrent and regular forms, which are then related to specific modes of biographical experiences. This is sometimes also combined with a coding approach (for example, Bamberg, 2007; Pöhl, 1998). An example where ATLAS.ti is used is the research by De Gregorio (2009) on narrating crime.

Narrative analysis can also be conducted using quantitative methods (QNA). QNA aims to turn words into numbers. This is achieved via coding the “story grammar” made up of coding categories – the objects of the grammar. By computing word frequencies of coding categories, words are then turned into numbers (cf. Franzosi, 2010).

Further readings:

  • Boje, David M. (2001). Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001, 83, 98.

  • Franzosi, Roberto (2010). Quantitative Narrative Analysis. Sage Publications.

  • Mitchell, M. and M Egudo, M. (2003). A Review of Narrative Methodology. DSTO Systems Sciences Laboratory, Edinburgh, South Australia. Available online:

  • Polkinghorne, Donald E. (1995). Narrative Configuration in Qualitative Analysis. Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol. 8, Issue 2

  • Riessman, C. K., 1993. “Narrative Analysis.” Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

  • Schütze, Fritz (1983). Biographieforschung und narrative Interviews, Neue Praxis, 3: 283-93.

  • Schütze, Fritz (1981). Prozessstrukturen des Lebensablaufs. In Joachim Matthes, Arno Pfeifenberger, & Manfred Stosberg (Eds.), Biographie in handlungswissenschaftlicher Perspektive (pp.67-156). Nürnberg: Verlag der Nürnberger Forschungsvereinigung e. V.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

Objective Hermeneutics

Objective Hermeneutics was developed by Oeverman, a German scholar and former student of the philosopher Habermas. It is a method of interpreting textual data providing a rule-governed procedure. The aim is to go beyond subjective meanings detecting the objective connotation, the so-called latent sense structure behind the data. Like ethnomethodology, personal motives and intentions are not important for the analysis.

The analysis follows a strict sequential pattern and is usually conducted by a group of researchers, the “interpretation circle.” Beginning with a first sequence, e.g., the opening sentence, different storylines are developed and discussed by the team of researchers. The storylines can be viewed as preliminary hypotheses that can be falsified when inspecting more of the empirical data in the process of analysis. The method is very time-consuming and thus only feasible with small amounts of text. Coding procedures are explicitly banned. Proponents of this tradition argue that developing a coding system cannot represent social reality appropriately. The process of coding would even deplete the theoretical appraisal of empirical phenomena. Thus, objective hermeneutics is not a methodological approach that can or should be supported by ATLAS.ti.

Further readings:

  • Oevermann, Ulrich; Allert, Tilman, Konau, Elisabeth and Jürgen Krambeck (1987). Structures of meaning and objective Hermeneutics. In: Volker Meja, Dieter Misgeld and MicoStehr (eds.) Modern German sociology. (European Perspectives: a Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism). New York: Columbia University Press, S. 436–447.

  • Oevermann, Ulrich et al. (1979). Die Methodologie einer objektiven Hermeneutik und ihre allgemeine forschungslogische Bedeutung in den Sozialwissenschaften. In Hans-Georg Soeffner (ed.), Interpretative Verfahren in den Sozial- und Textwissenschaften. Stuttgart: Metzler, pp. 352 – 434.

  • Reichertz, Jo (2004) Objective Hermeneutics and Hermeneutic Sociology of Knowledge, In U. Flick, E. v. Kardorff and I. Steinke (eds). A Companion to Qualitative Research. London: Sage. pp. 290-295.

  • Wernet, Andreas (2000). Einführung in die Interpretationstechnik der Objektiven Hermeneutik. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

  • Wernet, Andreas (2014). Hermeneutics and Objective Hermeneutics. In: Flick, Uwe (ed.). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis, pp. 234-246.


Phenomenology is a research methodology that has its roots in philosophy, focusing on the lived experience of individuals. Phenomenological researchers are interested in the nature or meaning of something; their questions are about the essence and not about appearance. Comparable to hermeneutical analysis, the researcher tries to enter into the other person’s perspective and experience. In addition, there is a strong emphasis on the researcher’s personal experience of the research process itself. A constant question is: How does this affect me as a researcher? Data are collected through various means: observation, interviews, focus groups, diaries, videotape, and written descriptions by subjects. During the analysis process, the researcher reflects upon their preconceptions about the data grasping the experiential world of the research participant. Transcripts are coded in considerable detail, with the focus shifting back and forth from the participant's point of view to the researcher’s interpretation of the meaning of these. Analysis is mainly inductive and ‘bottom-up’ and not guided by a priori formulated hypotheses. A discussion on the use of ATLAS.ti for descriptive phenomenological research can be found here:

What’s your experience been with qualitative descriptive phenomenological research when coding and sorting with ATLAS.ti

Further readings:

  • Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Newbury Park, California: Sage.

  • Reid, K., Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2005). Exploring lived experience: An introduction to Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The Psychologist, 18:1, 20-23.

  • van Manen, M. (Ed.). (2002). Writing in the dark: Phenomenological studies in interpretive inquiry. London, ON: Althouse Press.

  • van Manen, M. (2004). Phenomenology of Practice. Phenomenology & Practice, Volume 1 (2007), No. 1, pp. 11 – 30. Available online:

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Rosedale, Mary, Lisanby, Sarah H. and Malaspina, Dolores (2009). The Structure of the Lived Experience for Persons Having Undergone rTMS for Depression Treatment. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Vol. 15, No. 5, 333-337.


Phenomenography is a relatively new qualitative research method developed in the mid to late 1970s. It has primarily been a tool for educational research. Its roots are in Sweden at the University of Gothenburg. Today there are also strong communities in Britain and Australia. The focus is on the experience of a phenomenon rather than on the phenomenon itself. The aim is to investigate how people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, and conceptualize various phenomena. A phenomenographic analysis seeks a “description, analysis, and understanding of … experiences” (Marton, 1981, p. 180). The focus is on variation in the perceptions of the phenomenon experienced by the actor and in the “ways of seeing something,” as experienced and described by the researcher. The various perceptions which emerge from the data are collected and sorted into ‘categories of description. Thus, CAQDAS software appears to be a feasible tool for phenomenographic analysis and put into practice by Boon, Johnston, and Webber (2007). They used ATLAS.ti to analyze the faculty’s conceptions of information literacy within a phenomenographical research framework.

Further readings:

  • Åkerlind, G. (2005). Variation and commonality in phenomenographic research methods. Higher Education Research & Development, 24(4), 321-334.

  • Marton, F. (1981). Phenomenography – describing conceptions of the world around us. Instructional Science, 10(1981), 177-200.

  • Marton, F. (1986). Phenomenography – A research approach investigating different understandings of reality. Journal of Thought, 21(2), 28-49.

  • Uljens, M. (1996). On the philosophical foundation of phenomenography. In G. Dall’Alba & B. Hasselgren (Ed.). Reflections on Phenomenography (pp. 105–130). Goteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothenburgensis.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

  • Bergman, Esther M; Bruin,Anique; Herrle, Andreas; Verheijen, Inge; Albert JJA Scherpbier, Albert, and van der Vleuten, Cees (2013). Students’ perceptions of anatomy across the undergraduate problem-based learning medical curriculum: a phenomenographical study. BMC Medical Education, 13:152. Available online:

  • Boon, Stuart, Johnston, Bill and Webber, Sheila (2007). A phenomenographic study of English faculty’s conceptions of information literacy. Journal of Documentation, 63 (2).204 -228.