Old-School Techniques for Qualitative Data Analysis


Posted September 24, 2019

Computer assisted qualitative data analysis software is very helpful for researchers when analyzing data. Programs like NVivo, Atlas.ti, and Dedoose help researchers organize and catalogue qualitative data, but they can be pricey. Even at student rates, many students do not have the money to shell out for such a program. So, what do you do when you cannot afford one of these programs, or you do not have access to them? Well, you can do what qualitative researchers have done for a long time – make do without! There are lots of ways to perform qualitative analysis without a specialized program. For example, qualitative analysis can be done using common text editing or word processing programs. Here, I will talk about how you can perform qualitative data analysis in Microsoft Word.

Once you have finished data collection and transcription, the next step is analyzing your data. Your transcripts should be in Word document format. I would recommend saving a copy of the raw transcripts, then save the document as a separate file as well with a label indicating that it is a coded transcript. This is the document you will be working with.

There are several features in Word that you may use to code your transcripts. The one that I find the most helpful is the highlighting feature, found in Home section of Word. The default color is yellow, but if you click the dropdown button next to the highlighting tool, more color options become available. As you start line-by-line coding you will use the different colors for different codes, so make sure that you keep a key for these. You will use this key across all your transcripts. Continue using this color-coding system until you have generated codes for all of your transcripts. If you run out of colors, you can use the Underline, Bold, or Italic functions to denote new codes.

When you finish coding your transcripts, you will begin to compile the codes based on color. For this, you can use Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. Begin with the first transcript and, in a new Word document or Excel spreadsheet, copy and paste all of the yellow-highlighted passages from the transcript into the new document. If you are using a spreadsheet, you can put each item into a different cell. Do this for all yellow-highlighted passages from all transcripts, and then do the same for the other colors you have used. When you are done, you will have a list of all coded passages assigned to one code, making them easy to retrieve for further review in later analysis stages.

The other feature of Word that can be helpful is the New Comment function, found in the Review section of Word. This feature allows you to highlight text passages and add notes in the margin. As you are coding your transcripts, you will likely have thoughts and ideas about what your participants said in their interviews. Using the New Comment feature will help you make annotations in the margin that are assigned to a certain passage, so you can pull these up quickly in the document and remember what was important about that passage.

While dedicated qualitative data analysis programs have their advantages, they are not necessary to perform good and thorough qualitative data analysis. Using the tools already available to you, this can be accomplished quite easily. Using this system can help you stay organized so you can easily visualize your data and results.


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