Carrying out a computer-aided thematic
content analysis with ATLAS.ti

by Susanne Friese, Jacks Soratto, Denise Pires

Working Papers WP 18-02
March 2018
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

There are many different methods in qualitative research and also many ways to approach the analysis of qualitative data. Even though nowadays, the use of Computer-Aided Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) is widespread, usually in the books and papers that describe an approach, it is not explained how to implement the analysis using software; it is assumed that this is self-explanatory. This often leads to frustration when using an analysis package ((Weber 2014), up to the point where the analysis is given up and researchers return to paper and pencil. To work with CAQDAS, one must first know which requirements the chosen analysis approach has. Then one needs to be familiar with the features that the software offers. And thirdly, one needs to know how the individual methodological steps can be implemented. This paper shows how the phases of a selected Thematic Content Analysis (TCA) can be realized in a software-aided analysis. The sample project that is used here for illustration purposes was provided by Jacks Soratto and Denise Pires. It is about job satisfaction and the dissatisfaction of professionals working in the Family Health System in Brazil. The implementation is described by the CAQDAS expert Susanne Friese. Before presenting the implementation, the different approaches of TCA are presented, and the individual analysis phases are explained. This paper is the second in a series that describes how a qualitative data analysis approach can be implemented using computerized qualitative data analysis software. The first one was on how to conduct a Grounded Theory analysis with ATLAS.ti (Friese, 2016).

Keywords: thematic analysis, computer-aided qualitative data analysis, ATLAS.ti, case study.  

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.

Jacks Soratto received his undergraduate degree in nursing in 2006, a master’s degree in Nursing 2011, and hhis PhD in Nursing in 2015 in Brazil. Currently holds a full professorship at the Federal University of Santa Catarina – UFSC, in Brazil. He is responsbile for the Multiprofessional Residency Program in Public Health, is a member of editorial boards of several scientific journals. E-Mail: jacks(at)unesc.net.

Denise Elvira Pires de Pires received her undergraduate degree in nursing in 1977, a master’s degree in Political Sociology in 1988, and her PhD on Social Sciences in 1996. Currently she holds a full professorship at the Federal University of Santa Catarina – UFSC, in Brazil. She has been a member of editorial boards and served as ad hoc consultor of several scientific journals. E-Mail: piresdp(at)yahoo.com.