6.2 Using data analysis tools
The thing that really strikes people when they have collected their data and are turning to the analysis stage is just how much there is. As a result, researchers often turn to analysis software to help them in this process. This sections looks at the different tools you might use to analyse your data
Different types of analysis
Manual analysis refers here to analysis which is conducted by the researcher without the help of software. Where there is a relatively small amount of data or where the researcher really wants to get to grips with the process of analysis, then manual analysis may well be appropriate.
Essentially, what it involves is the researcher going through the data in fine detail and identifying themes or patterns in the data. The researcher can then compare different types of data and the different themes emerging to see if they can be used to explain the data set as a whole. The process used to undertake manual analysis can vary accoriding to the approach taken, but the later sections on thematic analysis and grounded theory will provide a brief overview of what is involved.
Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis
Data analysis software is now widely used by researchers to reduce some of the manual and clerical tasks associated with data anlysis and to make the process of managing large amounts of qualitative data easier. There have been concerns expressed that using such software makes researchers focus on volume and breadth rather than on depth and meaning. However, if the software is used as a tool in the analysis, rather than to drive the analysis, there is no particular issue.
NVivo is the main data analysis package supported at the Open University although AtlasTI is also widely used.
Guidance on doing data analysis
The Universities of Huddersfield and Surrey have joined together on two projects to research and support the use of computer assisted qualitative data analysis. The CAQDAS Networking Project aims to provide practical support, training and information in the use of a range of software programs designed to assist qualitative data analysis.
Online QDA is a set of learning materials which address common issues of undertaking qualitative data analysis (QDA) and beginning to use Computer Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS) packages. http://onlineqda.hud.ac.uk/