The Books

The Five-Level QDA method for harnessing CAQDAS packages powerfully

Five-Level QDA is a method for harnessing CAQDAS powerfully

Three books will be published by Routledge in autumn 2017, one each for ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA and NVivo. They are part of the "Developing Qualitative Inquiry" series, edited by Janice Morse

"At last—3 user friendly books that bridge the gap between the researcher’s methodological goals and the capabilities of the software package. These books, targeted towards your particular software program, will assist you in maintaining/protecting the integrity of the methodological aspects of a study.  Rather than enabling the software capabilities to drive the analytic process, they will assist you to take full advantage of the power that the software has to offer.

The books contain examples that offer a window into how expert CAQDAS users have learned to accomplish this with much practice in many projects. Each book offers an opportunity to learn as quickly as possible the process as used by experts. For instructors, the book provides a way to embed CAQDAS training into your qualitative research curricula".

Janice M. Morse, PhD (Nurs), PhD (Anthro), PhD (Hon)
Professor & Barnes Presidential Chair, University of Utah College of Nursing

Overview of the books

Software is cut-and-dried – every button you press has a predictable effect – but qualitative analysis is open-ended and unfolds in unpredictable ways. This contradiction is best resolved by separating analytic strategies – what you plan to do – from software tactics – how you plan to do it. Expert CAQDAS users have unconsciously learned to do this. The Five-Level QDA method unpacks the process so that you can learn it consciously and efficiently.

The first part of each book explains how the contradiction between analytic strategies and software tactics is reconciled by “translating” between them. The second part provides both an in-depth description of how the software works - either ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA or NVivo - and comprehensive instruction in the five steps of “translation”. These steps are illustrated with examples from a variety of research projects. The third part contains real-world qualitative research projects from a variety of disciplines, methodologies, and kinds of qualitative analysis, all illustrated in ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA or NVivo using the Five-Level QDA method. Each book is accompanied by three sets of videos demonstrations on the Companion Website.

The Five-Level QDA method is based on Nick and Christina's combined 40 years of experience teaching CAQDAS packages as platforms for conducting qualitative analysis. After many years observing our students’ challenges we developed the Five-Level QDA method to describe the process that long-time CAQDAS experts unconsciously adopt. The Five-Level QDA method is independent of software program or methodology, and the principles apply to any type of qualitative project.

In a nutshell, the key principles are

  • to clearly distinguish analytic strategies from software tactics
  • to recognize the inherent contradiction between the emergent strategies of qualitative research and the cut-and-dried nature of the software tactics
  • to understand that there are alternative ways of reconciling these contradictions
  • to choose to reconcile the contradiction in a manner that leads to using the CAQDAS package powerfully. Five-Level QDA resolves the contradiction through a conscious process of translation between strategies and tactics 

For a fuller account see Silver, C., & Woolf, N. H. (2015). From guided instruction to facilitation of learning: The development of Five-level QDA as a CAQDAS pedagogy that explicates the practices of expert users. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 18 (5), 527-543.

Pre-register here to be notified when the textbooks are published. Please indicate your chosen CAQDAS package. We will contact you when the books are available in 2017. 


The advanced NVivo workshop was so useful. I now have the skills to enable me to use NVivo much more powerfully. Christina is a brilliant trainer and she adapted the course to suit the requirements of those that attended. Christina also gave everyone individual help with their projects. I could not recommend Christina's course highly enough, or emphasise more the value of this course for researchers working with qualitative data.
Caroline Andow, Postgraduate Researcher
University of Southampton


No 'basic' or 'advanced' CAQDAS features

No 'basic' or 'advanced' CAQDAS features
By Christina Silver on May 13, 2017 at 09:25 AM in CAQDAS commentary

This blog post is a response to Steve Wright’s reaction to a post I made on Twitter: “There are no basic or advanced #CAQDAS features, but straightforward or more sophisticated uses of tools appropriate for different tasks”

Thanks Steve for starting this conversation – it’s really important to debate these issues, and fun too! The sentiment behind the Twitter post underlie the Five-Level QDA® method that Nick Woolf and I have developed. Our forthcoming series of books explain our position, so here I briefly respond to Steve’s comments.


The Five-Level QDA method books are in production

The Five-Level QDA method books are in production
By Christina Silver on Mar 05, 2017 at 08:04 PM

We're really excited to have submitted to Routledge our manuscripts for three books on the Five-Level QDA method - one each for ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA and NVivo. Nick developed the theory and when we met in 2013 we realized that we had both come to very similar conclusions about the issues involved in teaching and learning to harness CAQDAS packages powerfully. We've since been working together to refine, test and write-up the method.


Don't blame the tools: researchers de-contextualise data, not CAQDAS

Don't blame the tools: researchers de-contextualise data, not CAQDAS
By Christina Silver on Jan 07, 2017 at 06:26 PM in CAQDAS commentary

In an earlier post on CAQDAS critics and advocates I promised to provide evidence for my position that CAQDAS packages are not distancing, de-contextualising, and homogenising, as is sometimes claimed. I have already argued that CAQDAS packages actually bring us closer to our data, and given an illustration of how this can happen, so here I consider the de-contextualizing issue.


An illustration of how CAQDAS tools can bring us closer to data

An illustration of how CAQDAS tools can bring us closer to data
By Christina Silver on Nov 14, 2016 at 10:49 AM in CAQDAS commentary

In my previous post I argued that using dedicated CAQDAS packages for analysis could bring us closer to our data, rather than distance us from it, as some critics suggest. Here I illustrate this by outlining how different CAQDAS tools can be used in to fulfil a specific analytic task, thus bringing us closer to data.

Let's imagine we are doing a project in which we need to generate an interpretation that is data-driven rather than theory-driven. It could involve one of a number of analytic methods, for example, inductive thematic analysis, narrative analysis, grounded theory analysis, interpretive phenomenological analysis'. Whatever the strategy, an early analytic task may be to familiarize with the transcripts in order identify potential concepts. There are several different ways we could go about fulfilling this analytic task using dedicated CAQDAS packages. Here I discuss three.


Does CAQDAS distance us or bring us closer to our data?

Does CAQDAS distance us or bring us closer to our data?
By Christina Silver on Oct 01, 2016 at 09:29 AM in CAQDAS commentary

In an earlier post on CAQDAS critics and advocates I promised to provide evidence for my position that CAQDAS packages are not distancing, de-contextualising, and homogenising, as is sometimes claimed. So I'm starting a series of posts. First I'm taking the suggestion that the use of CAQDAS distances us from our qualitative data and illustrate why I believe the converse to be true. Here I outline my position, and I'll illustrate my argument with examples in subsequent posts.