While working on my master thesis I have done several expert interviews and then came to the part where the gathered material has to be evaluated and interpreted. Although the process of qualitative content analysis in research is far older than computers, the tools for such tasks seem to be quite similar to other science tools: scarce and dusty.
At the beginning I checked the web for some software that could help me with the coding and analysis, software that is free to use and working on OSX. Turns out that -as expected- the search was not that easy.
There is a list on Wikipedia about qualitative data analysis software that lists various tools, but when you filter that list by:
- working on OSX (nowadays macOS)
- free to use
- not completely outdated (actually I don’t care as long as it would be usable on a current mac)
the variety gets rather scarce and in the end it came down to two tools that I want to mention here:
Is a standalone OSX application that looked quite promising, it is still supported and developed. But after installing it, it was very laggy and reacted just sluggish. I tried using it for one day but could not get it to work in an acceptable way.
This is the solution I stuck with in the end. It is an online tool (so yeah, you have to be fine with having your - maybe sensitive - data in the cloud), is free and as it turns out quite comfortable to use. Furthermore one of the projects initiator is Philipp Mayring, a renown expert in qualitative research. So if you are in a similar position and looking for a tool that helps you analyzing your qualitative data for any research project you should definitely check that one out!
One thing that is really nice about QCAmap is that it comes with a free theoretical guide on how to do content analysis. This guide on the one hand gives a very good introduction and overview about various techniques and also always describes how those techniques and practices are done in the online tool. But also without reading the whole document about content analysis it is easy to get started assumed there is already some basic knowledge about content analysis present.
How to start
You start by creating a new project and adding a new research question to that project.
Just give it a name and select which analysis technique you want to apply. A very handy thing is that you directly get a document explaining how to best do the chosen technique once you have chosen (this for example is for the inductive category formation method).
In the next step you can define your units of analysis, you can choose the granularity of your units (whether if you want to use slightest hints or complete sentences as coding units for that research question).
The only thing that is now still missing is the content you want to analyse. To get that into the system you upload text files (e.g. one file for each interview transcript). Once you have your files ready you can start coding, this process is very simple and intuitive: Just select some text and a popup lets you choose a category. You can either choose an existing one or introduce a new one (and also assign it a color code).
The left screenshot above shows the selection of a category as well as already placed categories on the right side of the text. The second screenshot shows how already created categories can be edited. You also have the option to create an Inter-Coder-Agreement where you can provide your data to a second researcher (and also optionally provide your defined categories) so you can get a second independend coding result.
When you are done with the coding you have multiple ways to analyse your content. You can download csv formatted statistics about the documents and categories and also a file with the coded passages.