Software for Qualitative Research: how about social web apps?

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    Arindam Basu

    I was recently working on a systematic review and wanted to use a qualitative data analysis software to get some of work done. The work was essentially mining through a large volume of text, identify patterns of information, classify (code them), put them into nodes, and then analyze the output.

    I wanted a software that had good features, was reasonably cheap to work with and would meet requirements. What was available?

    I looked at NVivo & Atlas.ti. Both are great piece of software, but both are very expensive to licence. Both are great to try out, and while Nvivo is time bound, Atlas.ti restricts the documents one could use for some real work. There may have been other commercial software that might let me do my work, but I did not know them.

    Then I looked at what was available in Open Source. Searched Sourceforge ( and found out about weft qda ( Weft is a good software, open source and free, and one can use Ruby to do some programming to extend it further. I did not have the time to do the necessary programming and wanted to get on with the job. However, weft is good but does not support everything I want to do and then all things do not work as well. In weft qda, you can create nodes and set up your codes and export them to another document and write up your paper, but it’s not nearly as sophisticated as nvivo, for example.

    At that point, I started exploring the idea of combining web services like annotation services (, tagging (eg diigo), tagging and marking (eg tumblr, for instance), and online mind mapping (eg xmind)? I was wondering if one could do a mashup of all these components (based on their APIs) and then the resulting software would let the pieces to be ported to either an online word processing program like Google Docs or another word processor and be made ready for presentations?

    Would be good to hear about your ideas.



    Arin, I would agree about the expensive part of Atlas.ti and NVivo! I liked the trial version of NVivo more because at least I could use as many codes I wish. I ran out of codes with Atlas.ti very soon and found its unlimited period offer of not much use.

    Even though I do not understand how do your proposed mashup but there has to be a demand for it. I will try out Weft but is it meant to be used by someone who has no clue about programming?

    Arindam Basu

    Hey Mridula,

    First off, congrats!
    Yes, weft QDA is very easy to use. You do not have to know programming to use it.
    More later,


    Arin, thanks. I would surely try weft QDA then.


    Hi there you might want to have a look at the new FrameWork software which might be good for what you are after. You can get a trial version by going to: It’s good for large amounts of textual data. Kandy



    You raise some interesting questions. I have been looking at Web 2.0 applications and there is some scope to create a qualitative analysis mashup but it is still not there yet in terms of the power you can get out of existing CAQDAS. Another factor is that the beauty of existing CAQDAS is that you have everything you need for your project in one container – using a mashup goes back to using disparate applications for different functions. Then there are a lot of issues about who owns the data (cf. issues around Facebook and data), security and privacy issues, whether the Web service could suddenly disappear etc. These issues need to be thought through very carefully being creating such a mashup.


    Arindam Basu

    I have been checking out framework. It’s an interesting concept. However, the approach I am thinking is simpler and more distributed (i have discussed some of it in the following thread). Your approach is great. Will watch the app.

    Arindam Basu


    I was checking out evernote and Google Notebook this morning and I thought there are possibilties that can be explored for instance. Some sort of a mashup between services like evernote+digg+zotero (I am thinking only of Firefox now, but certainly there can be others as well) and one can have a reasonable caqdas built. Perhaps, less ambitious and yet more realistic would be to tweak any php-mysql based content management system.

    I guess I am still sketching ideas in my head, but the issue is to create something that’s cheap, and highly disributional, and yet easy to use and intuitive. I am hopeful about this web 2.0 web 3.0 stuff.





    I think Zotero is great for managing and analyzing literature and helping you write a literature review. I am not familiar with evernote but had a quick look at it and it looks like a useful application. From the limited playing around with mashups I have done so far, it seems you can create one that would replicate traditional ways of managing qualitative data with the added bonus of collaboration. However, I haven’t found anything yet that builds on the additional affordances that CAQDAS offers – without needing programming skills which defeats the purpose of constructing something that is intuitive. But I’ll keep looking. ;),



    Just to let you know, here at University of Trento, we are working on writing a Free and Open Source, web-based, collaborative CAQDAS solution.

    If some of you is interested in more information, feel free to write me.

    Arindam Basu

    Buongiorno Maurizio,

    I am interested in your project. Perhaps you are already working on what I have in mind.




    I think you are asking so much, thinking about free software at least. However, you didn’t say nothing about your general perspective to analyze qualitative data. If are looking for a software “as Atlas.ti” maybe WeftQDA can be useful, of course, as you say, it hasn’t all you require to do analysis. Unfortunately, free qualitative analysis software are not so common yet. Here you have other alternatives:

    Answr (or “Answer”), a free qualitative software for to do workgroup analysis, it is a little bit more sophisticated than WeftQDA. You find it in:

    Yoshikoder, for content analysis mainly. In

    University of Pittsburg is offering a service called CAT or Coding Analysis Toolkit, i don’t know it, but I think maybe it can be useful for you. You will find in:

    A tiny but great tool is Textstat, a german free concordance software tool, you can apply KWIC and other options. In:

    If you need make Mind Mapping, the best tool, for me at the least, is Freemind ( but some people prefer CMAP tool (

    That’s all, honestly I think is not you are searching for, but I hope it will give you some orientation.


    Ariane Beldi

    Hi Maurizio,

    I’m also interested by this project. Could you maybe expand a bit on what it exactly entails? Open access is really an important issue nowadays, so any initiative going in this direction is worth checking out!

    So, I look forwards to reading more about this CAQDAS solution!



    Jason Taylor

    Okay, so I’m one of the people that worked on the project, but I would point you to take a look at Dedoose –, the overview video is at The tool is the next generation of EthnoNotes a older web based application for mixed methods research. Dedoose is cheap ( ~ $11 / month), and feature rich. Please take a look at the video, we would be happy to provide anyone and everyone with a free trial… and we would love anyone and everyones feedback. It’s a great tool for qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research.

    James Gab

    QDA Miner Lite is a free computer assisted qualitative data analysis software. This new software was released a few days ago by Provalis Research. This freeware provides an easy-to-use tool for coding, annotating and analyzing collections of documents and images such as interview or focus-group transcripts, journal articles, web pages, or customer feedback.

    QDA Miner Lite has been designed to meet the basic needs of researchers and analysts performing qualitative data analysis.

    This CAQDAS tool is ideal for those on tiny budgets (or no budget) or those who wish to teach qualitative research in classes.

    For more information, click on the following link: Free Qualitative Research Software

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