Habits of Mind and the Split-Mind Effect: When Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software is Used in Phenomenological Research


  • Erika Goble University of Alberta
  • Wendy Austin University of Alberta
  • Denise Larsen University of Alberta
  • Linda Kreitzer University of Calgary
  • E. Sharon Brintnell University of Alberta




computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software, NVivo, hermeneutic phenomenology, qualitative health science research, technology


When Marshall McLUHAN famously stated "the medium is the message," he was echoing Martin HEIDEGGER's assertion that through our use of technology we can become functions of it. Therefore, how does adopting computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software affect our research activities and, more importantly, our conception of research? These questions are explored by examining the influence NVivo had upon an interdisciplinary phenomenological research project in health ethics. We identify the software's effects and situate our decision to use it within the Canadian health sciences research landscape. We also explore the challenges of remaining true to our project's philosophical foundations, as well as how NVivo altered our being-in-the-world as researchers. This case demonstrates McLUHAN's claim that new technologies invariably initiate new practices and modes of being, and urges researchers to attend to how we are both shaping and being shaped by software.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs120227


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Author Biographies

Erika Goble, University of Alberta

Erika Goble, PhD(c) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Secondary Education, University of Alberta. Her research interests include hermeneutic phenomenology, the ethics of the image in research, medicine, and education, aesthetic experience, and research as practice. Previously she was the Research Project Coordinator for the Relational Ethics in Health Care Research Program in the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta

Wendy Austin, University of Alberta

Wendy AUSTIN, RN, PhD, is a full professor at the Faculty of Nursing and the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, University of Alberta. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Relational Ethics in Health Care, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta.

Denise Larsen, University of Alberta

Denise LARSEN, PhD., R. Psych., is Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of Alberta. She is also Director of Research at the Hope Foundation of Alberta, a community service and research unit affiliated with the University of Alberta and focused on the study of hope in practice. Dr. LARSEN's research interests include the role of hope within psychotherapy, counselor education, and teaching practices. She is also engaged in research on compassion fatigue in various caring professions.

Linda Kreitzer, University of Calgary

Linda KREITZER, RSW, PhD, is a Registered Social Worker and an associate professor of Social Work, University of Calgary, Edmonton: Central and Northern Region. Her research interests include international social work, multiculturalism, indigenous issues, qualitative research, community development, refugee issues, and social work in Africa.

E. Sharon Brintnell, University of Alberta

E. Sharon BRINTNELL is a Professor and the Director of the Occupational Performance Analysis Unit, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Alberta. She is also the President of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. Her research examines the impact of illness and injury on occupational performance, lifestyle choices, and the need for meaningful engagement.




How to Cite

Goble, E., Austin, W., Larsen, D., Kreitzer, L., & Brintnell, E. S. (2012). Habits of Mind and the Split-Mind Effect: When Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software is Used in Phenomenological Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-13.2.1709