Working on screen, working on paper

“I think one DOES think with one’s hands. I think that’s why a keyboard is not a good place for me to think. Some people think very well on the keyboard; and I need this kind of a fidgeting of charcoal, scissors, or the tearing of something in my hand. As if there’s a different kind of brain that is controlling how THAT works. There’s an uncertainty of what you’re doing, an imprecision; so that what you do when you look at it is not KNOW something which you’re carrying out; but rather rely on recognizing something as it appears.”

William Kentridge in the PBS documentary “Anything is posssible” (2010, PBS art 21 series. Director: Charles Atlas). 

Not all steps of analysis can be easily (or conveniently) undertaken in QDA software – depending of course on the program and methodological approach, but also on your personal preference of working with text. Many researchers feel awkward, or at least ‘different’ when they analyze data on screen, instead of working with a pencil and paper – I find this especially true for people who work very closely to their texts, doing for example very fine-grained, multi-layered analyses of spoken conversation.

What to do if you do not want to do all of the analysis on the computer (or within your QDA software)? In order to not lose the organizational benefits that come with QDA software, it is important to use the data you imported into your QDA software. Use QDA software as your data’s home base. If you need your data in a different program (like a word processor): Pull it only from the project file created by the software. This saves you a lot of trouble, first and foremost the hassle of synchronizing line numerations or document changes (like getting rid of typos, additional anonymization…).

Using QDA software does not imply that everything has to be done with the software. Flexible and reflected use of software includes to flexibly not use it as well. QDA software is not a trap, as long as we do not trap ourselves. And while many features of QDA software can be really convenient and helpful, not all work flows that work for researchers can be replicated with just sticking to a certain program – or with sticking to the computer screen.  This is why format and looks of data output can be just as crucial for your work as the features for data input. You should make sure to test software concerning export options beforehand – especially if you are used to working with paper and pencil , or if you think you might not feel comfortable working many hours on the computer.

Thumbnail image via flickr creative commons by Dan Foy; image sharpness and color hues were changed.