CAQDAS and Grounded Theory Analysis

by Susanne Friese

Working Papers WP 16-07
October 2016
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

In this paper, I show how the various steps of a Grounded Theory analysis can be conducted in a computer-assisted environment. As the Grounded Theory approach was developed before the event of CAQDAS (Computer-Aided Qualitative Data Analysis Software), the various steps and procedures have been described for manual ways of analysis. In newer books one finds references to the effect that this can, of course, also be carried out in CAQDAS, but little detail is provided about how this can be done, as if it were self-explanatory. Based on my experience, this is not the case. Learning the various tools and features of a piece of software does not automatically teach the user which tool is the best fit for a certain process given a specific methodological framework. In writing this paper, I wanted to show how the various steps and procedures of the Strauss and Corbin approach to Grounded Theory can be translated for use in ATLAS.ti.

The paper is organized into three parts. In the first part of this paper I discuss the sometimes difficult relationship between qualitative researchers and software applications for data analysis and the use of various terminologies that might be causing common misunderstandings. The second part is rather brief, being simply a pointer to the NCT method of computer-assisted analysis. A full description and explanation of the method as a core process of computer-assisted analysis would go beyond the framework for this essay. Part three offers a practical application of the NCT method in combination with Grounded Theory methodology. I assume that the reader will be familiar with the basics of the grounded theory methodology as described by Strauss and Corbin and with ATLAS.ti or other CAQDAS and wishes to know how the methodological approach can be translated into software tools.

Keywords: Grounded Theory, Corbin & Strauss, computer-assisted, ATLAS.ti, NCT method, open coding, axial coding, theoretical sampling, core category.  

Susanne Friese started working with computer software for qualitative data analysis in 1992. Her initial contact with CAQDAS tools was from 1992 to 1994, as she was employed at Qualis Research in the USA. In following years, she worked with the CAQDAS Project in England (1994 – 1996), where she taught classes on The Ethnograph and Nud*ist (today NVivo). Two additional software programs, MAXQDA and ATLAS.ti, followed shortly.

During her dissertation in consumer economics and in her subsequent position
as an assistant professor at the institute of marketing at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, she carried out a variety of research projects using both qualitative and quantitative methods. From 2004 to 2011, she taught qualitative and quantitative research methods in the Sociology Department at Leibniz University of Hannover. In addition, she has accompanied numerous projects around the world in a consulting capacity, authored didactic materials and is one of the principal contributors to the ATLAS.ti User’s Manual, sample projects and other documentations. Her book “Qualitative Data Analysis with ATLAS.ti” published with SAGE  publications.

Susanne’s academic home is the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen (Germany), where she pursues her methodological interest, especially with regard to computer-assisted qualitative data analysis.