ICT and the Research Process: Issues Around the Compatibility of Technology with Qualitative Data Analysis

Kathryn A. Roberts, Richard W. Wilson


This paper explores the nature of qualitative data and the uneasy relationship it holds with computer-aided analysis. Qualitative research produces data that are rich and voluminous, shedding light on the lived experience of the "being-in-the-world" and the interactions inherent in complex social phenomena. Analysis of such data, however, is complex and time consuming in addition to which there is a lack of specific guidance on how to carry it out. The authors note that the philosophy underpinning information and communication technology (ICT) is not wholly compatible with that which underpins qualitative research. ICT is based largely on logical, objective and quantifiable procedures whereas qualitative research requires a more subjective, interpretative stance and seeks to explore meaning. On this understanding of the philosophies involved it is argued that the role of computer software in qualitative data analysis is limited. It is accepted that the mechanistic tasks of qualitative data analysis, for example, organising, storing, reproducing and retrieving data, can be undertaken more efficiently and systematically using ICT than manually. It is the creative and interpretive stages of qualitative data analysis, requiring human reflection and understanding, which are most difficult to reconcile with the application of ICT. The paper also discusses in some detail the use of NVivo software which supports the searching and coding of qualitative data and also has facilities for theory development and exploration.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0202234


qualitative data analysis; information and communication technology; interpretive tasks; mechanistic tasks; phenomenology; philosophy of research

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-3.2.862

Copyright (c) 2002 Kathryn A. Roberts, Richard W. Wilson

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