Research software

Research software used in the area of qualitative data, like ATLAS.ti, helps researchers to manage, shape and ake sense of unstructured information.
Susanne Friese
Product specialist, trainer and author of the book "Qualitative Data Analysis with ATLAS.ti"
  1. Research Software

Research Software

What is Research Software for Qualitative Data?

Qualitative Research Software will not do the thinking for you but provides a sophisticated workspace that enables researchers to work through their information.

Word clouds
Figure 1: Word clouds

Qualitative research is foremost a method of inquiry appropriated in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research and further contexts. By employing research software, qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. The qualitative method investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, when. Hence, smaller but focused samples are more often needed, rather than large samples.

With purpose-built tools for classifying, sorting and arranging information, software for qualitative research gives the researcher more time to analyze materials, identify themes, glean insight, and develop meaningful conclusions.

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Until the 1970s, the phrase ‘qualitative research’ was used only to refer to a discipline of anthropology or sociology. During the 1970s and 1980s qualitative research began to be used in other disciplines, and became a significant type of research in the fields of education studies, social work studies, women’s studies, disability studies, information studies, management studies, nursing service studies, political science, psychology, communication studies, and many other fields. Qualitative research occurred in the consumer products industry during this period, with researchers investigating new consumer products and product positioning/advertising opportunities. There continued to be disagreement about the proper place of qualitative versus quantitative research. In the late 1980s and 1990s after a spate of criticisms from the quantitative side, new methods of qualitative research evolved, to address the perceived problems with reliability and imprecise modes of data analysis. During this same decade, there was a slowdown in traditional media advertising spending, so there was heightened interest in making research related to advertising more effective.

In the last thirty years the acceptance of qualitative research, mainly precipitated through the advent of dedicated research software has been growing. Professional research software like ATLAS.ti has helped to open the doors and widen the understanding (as well as providing a easily managable framework) for large-scale qualitative research.