About

The CAQDAS Networking Project provides:

  • Practical support, training and information in the use of a range of software programs designed to assist qualitative and mixed-methods analysis
  • Platforms for debate concerning the methodological and epistemological issues arising from the use of such software packages
  • Research into methodological applications of CAQDAS packages

What are CAQDAS packages?

The term 'CAQDAS' was coined by the founders of this project -  Professor Nigel Fielding and Professor Ray Lee - and stands for Computer Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS.

We use the term to refer to software packages which include tools designed to facilitate a qualitative approach to qualitative data. Qualitative data includes texts, graphics, audio or video. CAQDAS packages may also enable the incorporation of quantitative (numeric) data and/or include tools for taking quantitative and mixed-methods approaches to the analysis of qualitative data.

However, they must directly handle at least one type of qualitative data and include some – but not necessarily all – of the following tools for handling and analysing them:

  • Content searching tools
  • Linking tools
  • Coding tools
  • Query tools
  • Writing and annotation tools
  • Mapping or networking tools

The combination of tools within CAQDAS packages varies, with many providing additional options to those listed above. The relative sophistication and ease of use also varies and we aim to uncover some of these differences in our comparative reviews. Although it is sometimes purported that CAQDAS packages are reliant on or biased towards code-based approaches, we do not see coding tools as a pre-requisite for a software package being included under the CAQDAS umbrella.

 

Origins of the CAQDAS Networking Project

The CAQDAS Networking Project was formally established in 1994 when we first received ESRC funding. The project grew out of the first Surrey Research Methods conference in 1989 at which time Ray Lee and Nigel Fielding coined the term CAQDAS. That conference brought together pioneers in the field and resulted in an edited volume of papers by methodologists and software developers (Fielding and Lee 1991/1993). The volume provides an historical context to the early development of software and is therefore a seminal work in the development of CAQDAS technology and its adoption by researchers.

Our remit

Our remit is to provide information, advice, training and ongoing support in the use of a range of CAQDAS applications and we have trained over 7000 researchers and students since 1994. Non-UK based participants frequently attend our events. Our programme of awareness-raising and training events aims to reflect the broad area of methodological and technological innovation together with supporting novice users in planning a project and using software effectively for their needs. The content of our training events is informed by research and our experience of working with researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and using a range of qualitative methodologies.

Our mission

Our mission is to encourage the independent use of CAQDAS packages. We have no commercial ties with any software developer or company and therefore provide unbiased comparisons of tools and discussion of their application in different research contexts. We encourage critical evaluation of products and the tools offered within them in order that researchers can manipulate tools to support their own ways of working and analytic approaches.

  • We do not consider there to be a ‘best’ CAQDAS package and we do not advocate the use of particular products. All our materials are developed out of our research work and experience of teaching and working with researchers using CAQDAS packages since 1994.
  • We do not consider there to be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of using a tool for a particular purpose and do not advocate ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions to methodological or practical issues. 
  • There are a multitude of methodological approaches to qualitative data analysis (QDA) and software tools can be used in different ways to support those needs effectively. If you are new to QDA visit the introduction to qualitative data analysis part of the Online QDA website for general information and starting points.
  • Our online materials are not intended as step-by-step instructions for using any software in its entirety. This sort of support can be accessed from various places, including the relevant software developer websites and user-forums, software help menus, some books and websites and in the documentation provided if you attend a software-specific training course. Throughout our online materials we point you at relevant additional resources where we have found them to be particularly useful. In places we do provide step-by-step procedures where we are addressing particular methodological or practical tasks.

 

Qual-software discussion list

Since 1998 we have hosted Qual-software - an email discussion list providing a forum for debate and information concerning the general usage of qualitative data analysis software packages 

Any problems regarding the above should be addressed to: qual-software-request@jiscmail.ac.uk

Our research

Our research concerns the use of CAQDAS packages for innovative purposes. Through the QUIC programme we are explored technological and methodological developments in qualitative software, with a focus on three particular areas: the integration of quantitative and qualitative data; the analysis of (multi-stream) visual data and the convergence of GIS technology with qualitative software. Research in these areas contributed to the development of new online materials to support researchers in deciding between and using CAQDAS packages effectively.

Collaborations

We work closely with a number of other projects in order to provide the best possible set of resources and training events possible.

Current collaborations include

  • Day Courses in Social Research (DCSR) is also located within the Sociology Department at the University of Surrey, and most of our training and capacity-building events are administered by the DCSR admin team.
  • The National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM), is based at the University of Southampton, and acts as a hub for methodological innovation and advanced training in the UK. We have close ties with the NCRM as a result of their funding of our research activities under the Qualitative innovations in CAQDAS (QUIC) programme. The NCRM support our continued capacity-building activities, enabling us to provide free and low-cost seminars on methodological applications concerning the use of CAQDAS.
  • the Rotterdam Exchange Format Initiative (REFI) is a collaborative endeavour between CAQDAS developers and methodologists/teachers to develop an open-source XML standard so that analysed data can be exchanged between CAQDAS products. 

Previous collaborations include 

  • Online QDA and REQUALLO are websites providing support materials addressing commonly experienced issues with qualitative methods and selected CAQDAS packages. These resources are hosted at the University of Huddersfield, and were developed in collaboration with members of the CAQDAS Networking Project. 
    • The QDA website is concerned with issues and individual experiences of qualitative data analysis itself. It includes a list of common qualitative methodologies with definitions and links to further related resources as well as information relating to the processes of qualitative data analysis such as writing, coding, analytic techniques, writing up and issues relating to quality.
    • The REQUALLO project is part of Online QDA which contains case-study exemplars of data and explications of the analytic procedures from recent, real research projects.
  • The South East Doctoral Training Centre enabled us to offer significantly reduced fees for our training events for doctoral students. 

Funding

Between 1994 and 2011 we were funded by 7 streams of ESRC funding, most recently as an ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) Node as part of the Research Methods Programme (RMP) and the Researcher Development Initiative (RDI). We receive no external funding currently.