RE: [xmca] REquest for evalu of software

From: Ellen Scully-Russ <escully.russ who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jan 24 2008 - 12:26:50 PST


I am currently using Atlasti for my dissertation study. I have never used
EnVivo so I cannot comment on it. I will start with what I find useful
about Atlas and then share some its limitations from my point of view.

I have used to it conduct several literature reviews - I linked journal
articles, chapters from e-books, and notes from other readings. So it was
helpful in the creation of my conceptual framework for my study - and many
of the codes I will use to analyze my data already reside inside the

I have just completed data collection and most of it has been linked to
program. My data consists of transcripts from 15 in-depth interviews of 2
-3 hours in length, one media product - ranging from videos, articles,
web-sites, brochures - shared by each of the participants, field notes from
25 meetings and events I attended, transcripts from 10 expert interviews,
and excepts from my research journal. So you can see, the tool allows
access to a variety of document types and media formats. It is enormously
versatile in that way.

I am now working to align the conceptual codes from my lit review with what
I think I learned through my field work and data collection. The software
is very useful in this process for it allows me to track any changes I make
to the coding scheme and to document my rationale. I can eliminate, add,
and combine codes and write and link a memo on those changes - everything is
in one place. I find the memo feature very helpful - it resides inside the
program and can be linked a number of objects inside the program (codes,
quotes, documents). What is most helpful about this is that I do not have
to interface with other software - like word - in order to journal a
thought or document a change. This aids with multi-tasking and minimizes
the risk that something important may get lost.

Perhaps the strongest features though are those that aid in the analysis
itself, which I must admit, I am still learning. If you use the
relationship features (found in code manager), which I strongly suggest you
do - it can tell you at a quick glance not only the frequency of your use of
a particular code, but the density of the code - or the number of other
codes it is related to. This feature is very helpful as I begin to think
about the relationships between codes which I find particularly difficult to
do if I am just looking at the number of times I used a code. In addition,
codes can be grouped into families and then mapped using the embedded mind
map which aids in the testing of different conceptual frameworks and
hypothesis. Finally, one feature I have not used yet, but am anxious to try
out is the one that allows you to track the relationship between the codes
inside each transcript. For example, you can probe for patterns in when
codes appear inside the data. Do certain codes appear in conjunction with
other codes - pointing to a relationship that should be explored.

I also understand that you can set it up so that several people can access
the program facilitating the work of study teams.

Many of my colleagues do not like qual research software because they say
that they need to 'see' and 'touch' their data - and to manipulate in their
own way in order to understand it. I can appreciate their point of view,
but I find that Atlas actually facilitates this process once one gets
familiar with 'how it works'. So like any new tool, there is an learning
curve so one must decide whether it is worth the investment of time to set
it up and struggle through the problems that will inevitable occur when
trying something new. I found that by using it to conduct several lit
review, and making many mistakes that I struggled to correct - before I took
the risk of using it on a 'high stakes' endeavor like the analysis of
dissertation data - gave me more confidence to use it now. A little
background on me - I am a 'mid-career' student so I did not grow up using
computers. I am not fearful of computers, I use one every day in my work.
But I have never advanced beyond the level of an average user of the
software I have access to. If you and your team are younger and more
computer 'savvy' than I, you may find it less challenging to adapt.

One final observation in this regard. The manual is very dense - I find
myself having to go back and re-read many of the sections prior to using
certain features because I have difficulty understanding both the task that
they are explaining as well as the instructions on how to perform the task.
I think it is because it was originally written in German by German software
engineers and so I think I may get lost in translation. But the good news
is that their tech support is very responsive - they respond to emails
within one business day and I have found their advise to be helpful. Also I
think there is an online community you can tap into for more help if you
have the time to do so.

Best of luck

Ellen Scully-Russ
Doctoral Candidate
Columbia University, Teachers College

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Worthen, Helena Harlow
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2008 1:45 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] REquest for evalu of software


Does anyone on this list have experience with either Atlasti or EnVivo for
the purpose of analyzing transcribed interviews? We may or may not decide to
buy one of these. There will be 40-50 interviews are about an hour long,
structured by about 15 questions.

Thanks -- Helena

Helena Worthen, Clinical Associate Professor
Labor Education Program, Institute of Labor & Industrial Relations
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
504 E. Armory, Room 227
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-244-4095

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