Integrating geographical data

As part of the qualitative innovations in Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (QUIC) project we are looking at ways in which CAQDAS packages enable geographical data to be integrated with other forms of qualitative data.


This page provides support materials (PDF) arising from our work concerning the use of selected CAQDAS packages to analyse audio and transcript data generated from mobile interviews in relation to corresponding location data collected through GPS technology. Additional material, such as photographs and sketch maps, may also be linked to and used in the analysis.

About the project

A preliminary review of the procedures and screen displays when geo-linking qualitative data in CAQDAS programs to images of places in Google Earth suggested that this technology might yield fruitful analysis results when the topic of the research is strongly connected to ideas about "place". So a pilot study was designed to examine the thoughts of a sample group of residents drawn from a selected area about their perceived boundaries to that area and their opinions of that area as a place to live. It was hoped that these topics would prove useful for exploring a linear phenomenon, such as a border, as well as studying a point phenomenon, such as a specific location, both whilst using this combination of software tools.

Mobile interviewing

As explained in the outline description of the exemplar project, an important part of the data collection process was a series of "mobile interviews" conducted in the area of the study.

These notes are a series of personal observations about how this particular research technique worked in the real world. They are included here for the benefit of other researchers who may be considering trying something similar in their work.

Linking to Google Earth

This section is a series of observations about how each CAQDAS package facilitates the linking of qualitative data that has a geospatial dimension to images of the location available in Google Earth. The materials use examples from a pilot study which involved conducting interviews with people connected to a selected area as they walked around that area and discussed it, and whilst a GPS device recorded the precise track followed and the waypoint locations of some significant places that were talked about. More details about the data collection methods can be found in the exemplar project description, and mobile interviews.

Using audio clips and Google Earth

This section illustrates some possible techniques which can be used in CAQDAS software to enhance the integration of qualitative data with geo-spatial data, in particular, with location images in Google Earth. A basic underlying principle is that, although a research analyst can only look at one thing at a time, it is possible to look at one thing whilst simultaneously listening to another. Thus facilities that help the analyst to listen to relevant clips from audio recordings of interviews at the same time as viewing detailed images of the place being discussed in those clips should help generate deeper insights about those places than would be possible from reading transcripts and viewing images together.

The functions and processes described below are illustrated with examples from the same pilot study as was used in the page of guidance about linking textual data to Google Earth. More details about the data collection methods can be found in the exemplar project description, and mobile interviews.

Further reading