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Qualitative Research & Tools

Find tutorials about conducting Qualitative research, including resources on methodologies and software.



Note the date of these sites, as software changes frequently!

Software Independence

All the major Qualitative software packages have implemented an exchange file format allowing you to transfer your project from one software to another. We highly recommend using a software that supports the project exchange format OR that is open-source. 

  • Project Exchange  -  Allows the entire project to be converted from one software to another. Do NOT expect that that complex projects or those using special features of a software will be transferred as desired. You can expect the transferred project to include all documents and any straightforward coding. 
    • Supported by: ATLAS.ti, Dedoose, Leipzig Corpus Miner, MAXQDA, NVivo, QDA Miner, Quirkos, Transana
  • Codebook Exchange - Allows the codebook to be transferred from one software to another.
    • Supported by: the above plus f4analyse, HyerRESEARCH

Popular Software

Primary Full-Feature Software Packages

  • Atlas.ti - Originally designed for Grounded theory analysis, Atlas.ti excels at memos and other tools for theory building. It also has network tools and a companion online version. Recent versions have greatly improved labeling and added features that were standard for it's competators. 
  • MAXQDA - Although newer than others, MAXQDA takes advantage of this with many colors, emoji's, and on-the-fly filtering. The interface tends to be more cluttered and redundant, but an identical interface across platforms, regular improvements, and free course licenses and read-only access to projects make it an attractive option. 
  • NVivo - A streamlined and familiar interface and support for a variety of data types and organizational structures make NVivo a good all-around choice for any project. But, annotations and memos are less integrated than they should be, and the Mac version has both fewer features and a different file type (hindering collaboration). Those, combined with the increasingly restrictive and expensive licensing, has many looking elsewhere. 

Good Alternatives

Free/Open Source

  • Taguette - Simple, but pleasant web interface supporting just basic code-and-retrieve. Supports sensitive data with a local or server install, or use their free server. 
  • Qualcoder - Python-based with an installer for Windows only (must run from source on Mac). More full-featured than other free options, including colors, cases, and right click menus (see a video demonstration). Accepts Word documents, pdfs, images, and video, Takes a bit of work to get started, but easy to use once learned. 
  • QCoder - R package with some point-and-click options (must install R first). Best for those already using R for quantitative needs and desiring some mixed methods options. 


  • Excel or Google Sheets or Calc - Any spreadsheet program can do basic code and retrieve using the filter and pivot table functions which all of them have. See this video on Qualitative Analysis Using Excel (TrixieMay Racer)

Online: These make it easier to collaborate with others and offer per-month pricing, (~$10-15/month), good for shorter projects

  • Atlas.ti Cloud - Slick and colorful, but not full-featured, this is a great software for first-time users with uncomplicated needs. 
  • Dedoose - Designed for mixed methods projects with fewer but more complex codes (allows ratings), this full-featured online software is a solid choice in some circumstances, especially distributed groups with somewhat complex projects, or those that would benefit from monthly pricing. 


  • QDA Miner - An older interface and no Mac support hinder this otherwise-solid and full-featured software. A FREE lite-version for basic features and the suite of additional software may make it worth a look, though, if your computer is compatible.

Other Options

These do not seem to have any advantages over the above at this time, unless simplicity is the primary goal.

  • f4analyse - Evolved from transcription software. Available for Linux. Limited to RTF files, but very simple coding and clean interface.
  • HyperRESEARCH - Mac-like multi-window interface. Easy to code and does not require a powerful computer. Demo mode for small projects.
  • Quirkos - Simplistic visual interface with expanding bubbles representing used codes.
  • transana  - Evolved from transcription software

Low-Cost and Teaching Software

Mason does not have a site license for any Qualitative software.

It is important to distinguish between full-featured Qualitative packages and basic code-and-retrieve software. Although it is good for students to be exposed to full-featured software, the basic packages can be far easier to learn. 

Among the full-featured software, NVivo is the most flexible and familiar of all the options and thus is a good choice for teaching. Thus, the Digital Scholarship Center Computer Lab has installed NVivo on all the computers in the lab and hosts classes for hands-on workshops when possible. DiSC maintains at least one license for each of the other major full-featured packages (MAXQDA, Atlas.ti, and QDA Miner), as each has special features that make it best for certain tasks. 

Free for Students

  • Taguette - Free and Open-Source (Python)
    • Available online (free registration), on your own server, or installed (local server)
    • Basic code-and-retrieve keeps it simple; server version allows collaborators.
  • MAXQDA - Free Course License for Students
    • For class use only, no license for the instructor
    • Fully-featured qualitative software with a free read-only software for sharing

Extended Trials

  • Atlas.ti Cloud - Great for new users. Unlimited trial version is limited in number of documents and codes. 
  • Atlas.ti - Trial version is limited in number of documents and codes
  • Dedoose - 30 day free trial, monthly pricing.

Other Software to Consider

  • QDA Miner Lite (Windows Only)
    • Basic code-and-retrieve, no limits. Project can be opened in the non-lite version.