All entries for September 2015

September 29, 2015

ATLAS.ti vs NVivo vs MAXQDA

Follow-up to Choosing the right Data Analysis Software from CES PHD Support Group

There is a range of available software that has developed over the years and distinctions have been made between kinds of CAQDAS (text retrievers, code and retrieve, qualitative comparative analysis, theory building).

During my ersearch I noticed a pattern emerging when people are talking about the "best" software (whatever that means). There is a clear distinction between three major software options and the rest of the available options. So I decided to focus on these three instead.


The purpose of ATLAS.ti is to help researchers uncover and systematically analyze complex phenomena hidden in unstructured data (text, multimedia, geospatial). The program provides tools that let the user locate, code, and annotate findings in primary data material, to weigh and evaluate their importance, and to visualize the often complex relations between them.

Advantages of Atlas.ti

  • Supports multimedia files and PDFs
  • East Asian and Middle Eastern language support
  • Google Earth is embedded
  • Multiple ways of working in the system (high flexibility)
  • On-Board Transcription Engine
  • Visual model building and "mind mapping" using the Network Editor
  • Export to SPSS, HTML, CSV

Limitations of Atlas.ti

  • Managing the project requires care because of the external database system—changes need to be carefully saved.
  • Main working code list does not have a functioning hierarchical structure.
  • Query tool lacks the ability to integrate searchers for text with searches for coded data.


Tutorials on

Videos on Youtube


NVivo is a qualitative data analysis (QDA) computer software package produced by QSR International. It has been designed for qualitative researchers working with very rich text-based and/or multimedia information, where deep levels of analysis on small or large volumes of data are required.

NVivo uses an interface similar to Microsoft making it user-friendly, while it is easily accessible from any mobile device including an iPhone, iPad, tablet, and Android phone using EverNote. These features work well for various size projects and with single to multiple person teams. Online video tutorials and support manual are available for users who wish to view a demonstration or need assistance with understanding NVivo functions.

Advantages of NVivo

  • Available in several languages (English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Simplified Chinese)
  • Allows simultaneous use and sharing of data among research team members
  • Supports data formats such as audio files, videos, digital photos, Word, PDF, spreadsheets, rich text, plain text and web and social media data
  • NCapture add-on imports data from social media sites (e.g. Facebook posts, LinkedIn comments, YouTube videos)
  • Interchange data with applications like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, IBM SPSS Statistics, EndNote, Microsoft OneNote, SurveyMonkey and Evernote

Limitations of NVivo

  • Importing large datasets can take a large amount of time or may result in an error message
  • NVivo Mac has limited functionality (e.g. undo option not available for all actions)
  • Files from other programs, such as OneNote, not always imported accurately (i.e. missing data, change in layout).


Tutorials on

Videos on Youtube


MAXQDA is a software program designed for computer-assisted qualitative and mixed methods data, text and multimedia analysis in academic, scientific, and business institutions. It is the successor of winMAX, which was first made available in 1989. It is being developed and distributed by VERBI Software based in Berlin, Germany

Unlike most other CAQDAS, MAXQDA was not developed on the background of Grounded Theory. Instead the software is designed for both qualitative, quantitative research and (mixed methods research).

The emphasis on going beyond qualitative research can be observed in the extensive attributes function (called variables in the programme itself) and the ability of the programme to deal relatively quickly with larger numbers of interviews

Advantages of MAXQDA

  • Cloud-based, or does not require internet access
  • Excellent for mixed methods
  • Coding is made easy with drag and drop, color assignments, and weights
  • Several tutorials, user discussion boards, and support options are available via the MAXQDA product website.
  • All data is stored in one .mx5 (Windows) or .mx11 file (Mac)
  • Internal program media player
  • Import and coding of PDF and graphic files
  • Georeferencing
  • Powerful Multimedia Features – Analyze Audio and Video without Transcript
  • Literature Connection – Analyze Your Literature
  • Smart Publisher – Professional Report Generator
  • MAXQDA Mobile App – Extend the Possibilities for Your Research

Limitations of MAXQDA

  • Projects cannot be accessed simultaneously by multiple users. Rather team members must have access to the program, work separately, and then merge files together.


Tutorials on

Videos on Youtube

License comparison

Before you buy your student license make sure you have a look at this comparison in cost and features.

Software Atlas.ti Nvivo MAXQDA
Windows/Mac Windows and Mac OS X* Windows and Mac OS X Windows and Mac OS X
License duration 2 Years 1 Year 2 Years
Installation 1 2 2
Free trial period 30 Days 30 Days 30 Days
Promotions     Includes MAXDictio
Student License Cost $99 – PC+Mac/$69 – Mac 120 $** 115 $
Download Demo Link Link Link

* ATLAS.ti for Mac OS X requires OS version 10.8 ‘Mountain Lion’ or higher. Nvivo is less demanding and it requires Mac OS X 10.7.5 or higher and MAXQDA is the least demanding and it requires Mac OS X 10.7 or higher.

** As a student at Warwick University you get Nvivo license for free (read more here/ Login and Download here)

Further reading

A.Hariri's Blog post on Atlas.Ti 6 vs NVivo 9: A Comparison (a bit outdated but still insightful)

'Choosing a Qualitative Data Analysis Software Program' from the Medical Anthropology Wiki

'Choosing an appropriate CAQDAS package' from University of Surrey's CAQDAS Networking Project

September 25, 2015

Choosing the right Data Analysis Software

Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (CAQDAS) is an term, introduced by Fielding and Lee in 1991, for software used to support research and analysis of qualitative (and sometimes quantitative) data. Before going into details about the different available software (in an upcoming blog post) here's what you need to know about CAQDAS.

Understanding the limits of the software

It is important to know what the software is capable of doing beforehand. Unrealistic expeditions can lead to disappointments.

Here’s a list of what the software can and cannot do (Source: Online Qualitative data analysis)

The software does..

  • Structure work: Enables access to all parts of your project immediately,
  • 'Closeness to data' interactivity: Instant access to source data files (e.g transcripts),
  • Explore data: Tools to search text for one word or a phrase,
  • Code and Retrieve Functionality: create codes and retrieve the coded sections of text,
  • Project Management and Data Organisation: Manage project and organise data,
  • Search and interrogating the database: Search for relationships between codes,
  • Writing tools: Memos, comments and annotations,
  • Output: Reports to view a hard copy or export to another package.

The software does not..

  • Do the analytical thinking for you (though it can do things that help you do that thinking),
  • Do the coding for you. In general, you need to decide what can be coded in what way. Some software supports automatic coding the results of text searches, but it is still important to check what has been automatically coded. One program, Qualrus, after you have coded a passage, makes suggestions about how else you might code it. The same warning applies here. It is up to you to decide if what is suggested by the program makes sense.
  • Reduce bias, improve reliability or, on its own, improve the quality of your analysis (though it does have functions that can be used to help improve the quality of analysis),
  • Tell you how to analyse your data. (No-one thinks a word-processor can write a report for them.)
  • Does not calculate statistics, though some programs will produce simple counts and percentages.

Next Guest, McQueen, & Namey (2012, p. 224) recommend this graph for deciding when to use qualitative software


Main talking points about CAQDAS

1. Size of dataset

A clear advantage of using a CAQDAS software is the ability to work work with larger datasets. However, large datasets can lead to a focus on breadth rather than depth Seidel (1991). This means there’s a chance of losing detailed insight into the social situation being investigated.


2. Quality

With a COQDAS It is easier to keep track of the material and manage the data (Tesch, 1990). One advantage of using a COQDAS is allowing a trail of analysis to be preserved which makes it easier to replicate the research (Conrad and Reinharz, 1984). Another is the ability to repeat the retrievals and searches on data in a consistent way. Which in turn allows retrospective checks (Fielding and Lee, 1998).

3. Creativity and Thinking

CAQDAS software can, at least, perform technical and clerical tasks quickly and efficiently (Tesch, 1991)

4. Efficiency in Data Management

using CAQDAS saves time and is more efficient (Tesch, 1990). However, this means that organising the database still requires a researcher to be systematic (Fielding and Lee, 1998).

5. Distance from data

Weitzman and Miles (1995) identified the importance to researchers of feeling close to the data they are analysing.

Proponents of manual methods might argue that although it is easier to move around the database than shuffle paper, it is easier to flip a page than scroll down, quicker to read from a printed page than from the screen, easier to annotate in a number of different ways.

Weitzman and Miles (1995) have argued that distance from the data could be reduced with improvements in the interface design.

6. Methodological approaches

Drass (1989) noted that many programs supported thematic approaches to analysis (particularly grounded theory) but were not suitable for certain methodologies that did not use themes.

Seale (2000) agrees that CAQDAS programs were not suitable for conversation analysis and discourse analysis.

7. Speed and superficiality

Fielding and Lee (1998) cautioned, is that computers facilitate quick and dirty research with the possibility of premature closure. Seale (2001) noted that many did very little more than a simple code and retrieve which then formed the basis of a thematic report.

8. Teamwork

CAQDAS software makes teamwork easier. However, this means that everyone should have a copy of the software and that, generally speaking, only one user can alter the data at a time (which is not necessarily true of all the latest software).

9. Coding

CAQDAS software does not lock the analytic procedure into a rigid coding schema and iterative processes of coding and recoding are natural parts of CAQDAS use

However, this could lead to an over-reliance on the ‘coding’ method (Coffey and Atkinson, 1996)

10. Quantitative data

Ragin and Becker (1989) argued that CAQDAS software would narrow the gap between quantitative and qualitative data

Tesch (1989) pointed out, is that many quantitative researchers think CAQDAS software is just about the quantification of qualitative data (for better or for worse).

11. Support and Awareness

Fielding and Lee (1998) pointed out that computer staff providing support for the programs often have a background in natural science and therefore found it difficult to relate to the CAQDAS software.


Debates about the software, Taylor, C., Lewins, A. & Gibbs, G.R., 2005.

CAQDAS Networking Project, University of Surrey


  • Coffey, A. and Atkinson, P. (1996) Making sense of Qualitative Data, London: Sage.
  • Conrad, P and Reinharz, S (1984) 'CAQDAS software and qualitative data: editors’ introductory essay',Qualitative Sociology, 7 (1/2): 3-15.
  • Drass, K. A. (1989) 'Text analysis and text-analysis software: a comparison of assumptions'. in Grant Blank, James L McCartney and Edward Brent (eds), New in Technology in Sociology: Practical Applications in Research and Work. New Brunswick: NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Fielding N.G. and Lee R.M. (1998) Computer Analysis and Qualitative Research, London SAGE.
  • Guest, G., MacQueen, K. M., & Namey, E. E. (2012). Applied Thematic Analysis. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • Ragin, C.C. and Becker, H.S. (1989) 'How the microcomputer is changing our analytic habits', In: G. Blank et al. (eds), New Technology in Sociology: Practical Applications in Research and Work. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Seale, C (2000) Using CAQDAS software to Analyse Qualitative Data, In: David Silverman (ed) Doing Qualitative Research – A Practical Handbook. London: SAGE
  • Seidel (1991) 'Method and Madness in the Application of Computer Technology to Qualitative Data Analysis'. In Nigel G. Fielding and Raymond M. Lee (eds), Using Computers in Qualitative Research, London: Sage.
  • Tesch, R. (1990) Qualitative Research: Analysis Types and Software Tools. London and Philadelphia: Falmer Press.
  • Tesch, R. (1991) 'Software for qualitative researchers analysis needs and program capabilities', In Nigel G. Fielding and Raymond M. Lee (eds), Using Compluters in Qualitative Research, London: Sage.
  • Weitzman, E.A., & Miles, M.B. (1995). Computer Programs for Qualitative Data Analysis: A Software Source Book. Thousand Oaks: Sage

September 21, 2015

Lessons from Naturejobs Career Expo conference

Follow-up to Naturejobs Career Expo 2015 from CES PHD Support Group

Last week, I went to Naturejobs the Career Expo. Here are three lessons I took from the accompanying conference:

An excellent panel discussion

I attended an excellent panel discussion on “Careers in academia: the variety” with Chairperson : Anna Price, Queen Mary University of London; Speakers : Frances Ashcroft, University of Oxford; James Hadfield, CRI; Frederique Guesdon, University of London; Lisa Fox, Institute of Cancer Research.

Among the speakers was Dame Professor Frances Ashcroft from Oxford University who gave us an intimate peek at her life as a student then researcher and world-renowned public speaker.

After the discussion I asked Professor Ashcroft about publishing in prestigious journals. According to her, she managed to publish in Nature and in Science at the start of her academic career! I was naturally impressed. Especially when she was honest enough to say that she didn’t have much to publish about when she finished her PhD. In fact, she claimed that all her experiments were “a disaster” and that her results were contradicting her assumptions! So I asked her to explain how in the world was she able to publish in such highly esteemed journals when apparently her experiments were such failures? Here’s what she had to say.

How to get published

Prof. AshcroftThe secret to publishing is threefold, persistence, collaboration and timing. The most important amongst the three is persistence. Professor Ashcroft found herself lost after submitting her PhD. She knew she had to get published in the most prestigious journal she could gain access to but she didn’t have the proper results to do so. So she applied tor a postdoc position and focused her entire time to getting that first publication. During her postdoc she replicated her experiments and again the results weren’t ideal but that didn’t stop her, she collaborated with another postdoc in her field and managed to get a paper published out of this it. Once the first paper was published her second was significantly easier. Three decades later and she has some 400 publications in her name.

The secret to publishing is threefold; persistence, collaboration and timing

Professor Ashcroft is a Royal Society GlaxoSmithKline Research Professor at the University Laboratory of Physiology at the University of Oxford. She is a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford and is a director of the Oxford Centre for Gene Function. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society and has numerous honours and awards to her name, the chief among which having been appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) 'for services to Medical Science and the Public Understanding of Science' in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours.

When answering me about the secret of her gaining access to world-renowned journals she admitted that a bit of luck and lot of hard work can go along way. She said that back in 1978 (when she had her PhD) it was relatively easier to get published in journals such as Nature, but that doesn't mean that everyone who submitted their paper were accepted. She still had to work hard and present her results in he best way she knew how.

Read more about Professor Ashcroft at University of Oxford, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics

Photo is Professor Ashcroft courtesy of

From Academia to Industry

Jones during presentationI also attended the keynote speech which was about leaving academia into the industry. The speech was titles: “Escaping the Ivory Tower - how I left academia and got a proper job”. The speaker was Phill Jones, PhD.

According to

Phill Jones is Head of Publisher Outreach at Digital Science. He has spent much of his current career working on projects intended to accelerate science through improved scholarly communication. He moved to his current position from ReadCube in 2014, where he worked as VP of Business Development. Prior to that he built the editorial department at Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) as their first Editorial Director. Phill is a member of a number of publishing industry committees including the STM association early career publishing committee and tech trends executive board.

What Mr Jones was focusing on convening is that we as researchers get lost in our own research world and forget to think the next step after fishing our current project. Be it a PhD thesis, an MSc project, a research paper … etc, we need to learn to keep an eye on the job market or the “industry” as well as doing our research. His recommendations included advising graduate students to look for a job before starting the writing up of their theses.

Don’t get consumed by your research and keep an eye on the industry

Read more about Mr Jones at

keynote speech

September 19, 2015

Naturejobs Career Expo 2015

Writing about web page


Yesterday I attended the Naturejobs the Career Expo,the UK’s largest annual career fair for young researchers.

An exceptional event in an exceptional venue

business_design_centre.jpgThe exposition is an annual showcase of global career opportunities. It takes place in a few cities around the world and I just experienced their 9th time exposition in London.

One their website, Nature, wrote about the exposition that it “offers young, talented researchers an excellent opportunity to meet a diverse selection of national and international employers from academic institutions and scientific industries, such as pharmaceutical organizations, digital technology companies, science publishing and more”.

Nature being a very prestigious scientific journal I was expecting a large number of presenters and an equally large number of attendees. Which was the case. Once we arrived we had to stay in a very long line for about 20 minutes just to gain access to the main hall. The exposition took place in the Business Design Centre (previously The Royal Agricultural Hall) one of London’s most popular conference and exhibition venues.

Along the exhibition there were a few workshops, a Keynote and a panel discussion. I attended the keynote, one workshop and the panel discussion.

Exhibitor highlights

dsc_0953.jpgAmong the many exhibitor I met yesterday. Here are my favourates:

With more than 700 jobs available each month, academics is the leading website for research careers in higher education and R&D. For researchers who are working or looking to work in Germany and other European countries, offers job opportunities in industry, research institutes and universities. Beyond its job listings, offers relevant advice for your doctorate or postdoc career, for example how to apply for a PHD at graduate school in Germany. The guide to prizes and scholarships can open up new funding opportunities for you. Each week will send you a job newsletter with opportunities that match your profile. Register for free and make sure not to miss any career opportunities. Visit

Careers in Baden-Württemberg

There is no other region in Europe where science counts as such a vital part of the society. A share of 5.1 % of the GDP is invested in R&D and Baden-Württemberg also has the highest share of employees in R&D-intensive branches of industry (17 %). Moreover, with over 70 institutions of higher education and over 100 non-university research institutions Baden-Württemberg has one of the most diverse landscapes of higher education and research in Germany. The state boasts one quarter of the research capacities of major German research institutions such as 12 institutes of the Max Planck Society and 16 establishments of the Fraunhofer Society. Visit:

European Commission, EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion

EURAXESS — Researchers in Motion is a key initiative in supporting the European Union’s commitment to removing the barriers to free movement of knowledge within Europe, to strengthening cross-border mobility of researchers, students, scientists and academic staff, and to providing researchers with better careers structures.

EURAXESS is a pan-European unique initiative providing access to a complete range of information and support services for European and non-European researchers wishing to pursue research careers in Europe.

Composed of four complementary pillars (Jobs, Services, Rights and Links) EURAXESS offers access to the job market; assists researchers in advancing their careers in another European country and supports scientific organisations in their search for outstanding research talent. EURAXESS is a truly pan-European initiative, supported by 40 participating countries across Europe.


me after leaving the Swiss boothGerman Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is one of the world’s largest funding organisations for the promotion of international academic exchange and scientific cooperation. Offering more than 250 funding programmes the DAAD awards individual scholarships to foreign and German students, student trainees and interns, graduates, academics and scientists. Visit:

Max Planck Society

For more than 60 years, the Max Planck Society has stood for exceptional, results-oriented basic research in the life sciences, natural sciences and the humanities. Its 83 research institutes enjoy a strong reputation in Germany and abroad and have produced 17 Nobel Prize Laureates as well as 52 Leibniz Prize Recipients to date. Max Planck researchers continually advance into new dimensions of knowledge – they do this in fields that have not yet found their way into university curricula, or that require elaborate equipment, large-scale devices or special libraries. They publish around 13,000 articles in scientific journals per year, are networked around the world, train junior scientists, file patent applications, generate revenues through licenses, set up companies and create jobs. As of January 1, 2013, the workforce of the Max Planck Society consisted of more than 17.000 employees and more than 5,000 guest scientists.

IMPRS for Neural Circuits The common focus of the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Neural Circuits will be the understanding of neural circuits. This ambitious objective will require analyses at the molecular, cellular, multi-cellular, network and behavioral levels, with the full understanding that macroscopic phenomena can be scale-dependent, and that reductionism is not always sufficient as a method. IMPRS for Neural Circuits Faculty is coordinated by the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Brain Research and also includes Frankfurt Neuroscientist from the MPI of Biophysics, the Goethe University and the university clinic, the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies and the Ernst Strüngmann Institute. Offering, besides an excellent research environment, an educational program consisting of a large variety of different courses like modern topics and modern techniques in neuroscience, transferable skills and language courses. Besides this offer rotations, an exchange program and a PhD retreat. For more information. Visit:

Open Research@npg

Nature Publishing Group has consistently been an early mover in embracing open access. The portfolio now has 70 journals with an open access option, ranging from multidisciplinary titles such as Nature Communications and Scientific Data to highly specialized titles such as the Nature Partner Journals series.

Open access models and open research policies have long been at the heart of Nature Publishing Group's business development and strategic thinking at Nature Publishing Group (NPG). Together with Palgrave Macmillan, offering authors and their funders the option to publish open access across all publication formats: journals and books. Visit:

Researchers in Schools

Researchers in Schools (RIS) is an innovative teacher training programme that recruits PhD graduates and trains them to teach in state secondary schools. The programme offers a generous salary uplift for three years, meaning that participants receive an annual salary of up to £38,900 (London) from day one. As well as this salary uplift, the programme offers participants one day per week ‘off-timetable’ in which they receive bespoke CPD training, carry out their own academic research and deliver a range of subject enhancement activities within their school. Led by an award-winning educational charity – The Brilliant Club – the RIS Programme is designed to ensure that participants are equipped to deploy the expertise they have as PhD graduates to the benefit of pupils, schools and universities.

What I took from the exhibition

I have met a lot of people from all around Europe, including represents and/or employers from many universities, research centres and even embassies. It was a great networking opportunity where you learn to enhance you employability and maximize your career prospects. I also got a lot of goodies!

I will be writing about what I learnt form the workshops about publishing in prestigious journals and the Creative Commons (CC) license. I am currently waiting for one presenter to send me her slides. So keep an eye on the blog or on the Facebook page.

September 2015

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