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.
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).
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
- 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.
Before you buy your student license make sure you have a look at this comparison in cost and features.
|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|
|Free trial period||30 Days||30 Days||30 Days|
|Student License Cost||$99 – PC+Mac/$69 – Mac||120 $**||115 $|
* 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.
A.Hariri's Blog post on Atlas.Ti 6 vs NVivo 9: A Comparison (a bit outdated but still insightful)