CAQDAS definition

We use the term ‘CAQDAS’ 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 approaches to 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 here. 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.

In deciding which software packages to include in our comparative reviews we aim to both reflect the market in discussing those which are well-known and commonly used, and to raise awareness of newer and more methodologically specific options.

For more information on the history of CAQDAS and the range and types of software available to support qualitative research see the 'choosing a CAQDAS package' working paper.