Interview Question Generation & Qualitative Data Analysis Software: A modularized Curriculum

With this modularized curriculum, participants can generate a question guide for open and semi-structured interviews while actively using basic functions of a qualitative data analysis software. The idea behind this curriculum is to facilitate the meaningful, critical, and task-centered integration of qualitative data analysis software into methodology teaching. This approach is grounded in Carvajal’s (2002) critique of issues connected to qualitative data analysis software teaching, and it aligns with di Gregorios (2014) call for “a new pedagogic approach to teaching CAQDAS”.

The curriculum contains modularized activities that can be flexibly used in classrooms & workshops, prep notes, as well as lecturer notes for the question generation process & student examples.

The development and public availability of these curricular materials were made possible through the Replicable Instructional Technology Grant, awarded by MERIT Library at the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. I also want to thank the UW School of Education Qualitative Research Methods Committee for its ongoing support. Many thanks go also to the all the participants in the test workshops held at UW-Madison.

Download the curriculum here. (PDF, June 2015)

The idea behind the curriculum

As much as this curriculum is about generating questions: throughout the process, participants will use QDA software in order to pursue analytic tasks. They will explore features of the software; they will discover things they need the software to do; they will interact with their questions through the software; and they will bump against the limits of the software.

The setting of the use of software is a workshop focusing on generating questions – in my experience this is perceived by participants as a less high-stakes and high-pressure setting, compared to “analysis workshops”. And yet: participants actually do analysis. They create and debate systems of classification, they sort, re-assemble, annotate, complicate, simplify, categorize and synthesize data consisting of their interview questions. This makes this curriculum a useful primer for workshop series/classes that focus on the analysis of qualitative data. This curriculum features the use of MAXQDA, but the curriculum can be easily adapted to any qualitative data analysis software.

Notes on Method and Origin

The model of interview question generation that I use in this curriculum is based on the work of two German methodologists from the Freiburg circle of qualitative methodology ( Prof. Dr. Cornelia Helfferich (2005) has created this work flow at the Protestant University for Applied Sciences Freiburg, and it has been further developed by my methods mentor, the late Dr. Jan Kruse (2014) at the Institute of Sociology at Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg.

This method of question generation is deeply grounded in the notion of openness as the main quality criterion in qualitative research. The process is designed to help researchers understand their own understanding of the research topic, and to make presuppositions and preconceptions explicit. The detailed and time-consuming refinement of questions throughout the process reflects a deep footing in language: In order to understand what is said, we need to analyze how something is said (cf. Garfinkel 1967). It is thus necessary to consciously reflect upon the language of the tool that generates our data in the first place.


Carvajal, D. (2002). The Artisan’ s Tools . Critical Issues When Teaching and Learning CAQDAS. Forum Qualitative Social Research, 3(2). Retrieved from

Di Gregorio (2014): Time for a new pedagogic approach to teaching CAQDAS. Slide Deck from CAQDAS 2014 Conference, Surrey (England). Retrieved from

Garfinkel, H (1967). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Helfferich, C. (2005). Qualität qualitativer Daten. Manual zur Durchführung qualitativer Einzelinterviews. (2nd ed). Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag.

Kruse, J. (2014). Einführung in rekonstruktive Interviewforschung. Weinheim: Juventa.