The Books

The Five-Level QDA(R) method for harnessing CAQDAS packages powerfully

Our books, one each for ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA and NVivo, are available  now from the Routledge website. 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.

It 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

Three parts to each book

Each book follows the same structure, comprising three parts, each of which has three chapters:

Part 1: The principles of the Five-Level QDA method

Mastering the method means first learning the principles before hands-on use of the software. Chapter 1 lays the groundwork with the central principle – the contradiction between strategies and tactics when using a CAQDAS package to conduct qualitative analysis, and alternative ways to reconcile the contradiction. Chapter 2 fleshes out the first two levels of strategy and Chapter 3 deals with translating strategies into tactics.

Part 2: The Five-Level QDA method in practice

These chapters apply the principles. Chapter 4 provides an orientation to the software – either ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA or NVivo – and for those working in teams. Chapter 5 describes in depth how the software works in terms of Five-Level QDA principles. Chapter 6 describes in depth the steps of the translating strategies into tactics, with examples from a variety of research projects.

Part 3: Case illustrations  

These chapters illustrate the Five-Level QDA method in a variety of real-world qualitative research projects. Chapter 7 explains how to learn by analogy from the case illustrations in order to transfer the underlying process. Chapters 8 and 9 contain complete documentation of two full-case illustrations provided by researchers who have used the software for their own work.

Each book is accompanied by three sets of videos demonstrations on the Companion Website. 

What if you use a different CAQDAS package?

The Five-Level QDA method transcends software programs and methodologies, so the principles apply whatever CAQDAS pacakage you are using and whatever type of project you are undertaking. We were only able to write three books at once, but hope to publish books for other CAQDAS packages in the future. Watch this space...

To find out more

Testimonials

Thanks again for a great session! I really can't imagine how we could have proceeded without this kind of in depth training. Now on to the real work...
Jennifer Sweeney, MSLS, PhD
School of Education, University of California, Davis

Blog

Calling for a revolution – we have to get rid of codes

Calling for a revolution – we have to get rid of codes
By Nicholas Woolf on Jan 17, 2019 at 06:17 PM in CAQDAS commentary

Codes are the example par excellence for our constant banging on about strategies and tactics. Reminder: strategies are what you plan to do, and tactics are how you plan to do it. When using a CAQDAS program, the tactics are very different in nature from the analytic strategies. A strategy might be to compare the men and women respondents in a study by separately conceptualizing the male responses from the female responses. The tactic to fulfil it will depend on the CAQDAS package you use, but it will involve software tools that allow you to collect together selected items of data that have been tagged or grouped by you in the software so that you can compare them on screen or in printed form. Whatever the tools in your chosen software, they will have nothing to do with the subtleties of male and female characteristics or gender issues. Instead they will involve processing data in the software to accomplish your purpose. These are two extremely different ways of thinking, but because both are called ‘coding’ you unconsciously and unhelpfully think about them in the same way. For this reason we should stop using the term ‘code’ for the strategies level of our conceptualization work.

Read more...

Mindsets matter: think about how you think about CAQDAS programs

Mindsets matter: think about how you think about CAQDAS programs
By Christina Silver on Oct 31, 2018 at 02:06 PM in Five-Level QDA issues & ideas

On 17th October 2018 I had the privilege of opening the Digital Tools day at the World Conference on Qualitative Research (#WCQR2018) in Lisbon, Portugal. My talk was called “Mindsets for harnessing digital tools in qualitative and mixed-methods analysis: The Five-Level QDA method”. My main message was that we need to be more explicit about the way we think about the role of digital tools in the research process and our engagement with them.

Read more...

Can tactics inform strategies?

Can tactics inform strategies?
By Christina Silver on May 25, 2018 at 08:41 AM in Five-Level QDA in practice

Analytic strategies come before software tactics: that’s the Five-Level QDA approach. But there are times when software tactics can usefully inform analytic strategies. This leads to serendipitous exploration, and fits well with the emergent spirit of qualitative research.

When analytic strategies drive software tactics the use of the software is meaningful – focused on the needs of the research rather than the capabilities of the program. But many CAQDAS advocates say that new software features (tactics) do offer new analytic possibilities (strategies), and so the relationship goes both ways. I agree.

While I usually discuss the downsides of software tactics driving analytic strategies, here is an example from the workshop I led at the MQIC in Berlin earlier this year of tactics appropriately informing strategies.

Read more...

A CAQDAS horror story: when tactics drive strategies

A CAQDAS horror story: when tactics drive strategies
By Christina Silver on Mar 22, 2018 at 06:52 PM

A key principle of the 5LQDA method is that analytic strategies drive software tactics. This ensures that software use is always focused on the objectives of the study and is appropriate to the particular methodological context.

But what happens when software tactics drive analytic strategies? Here is the most extreme example I’ve observed. In my next post I’ll discuss when software tactics can usefully inform analytic strategies without actually driving the process.

Read more...

How many codes are needed in a qualitative analysis?

How many codes are needed in a qualitative analysis?
By Christina Silver on Feb 22, 2018 at 08:53 AM in CAQDAS commentary

There is no answer to this perennial question - not even any guidelines. You need as many codes as you need - in other words, however many are needed to capture what's going on in the data in relation to your analytic focus and research objectives. How many depends on what you're using the codes to represent, how you derive them, and how you intend to use them in the analysis. I've done substantial projects with as few as 22 codes, and others that required several hundred.

Read more...