Silvana di Gregorio, PhD SdG Associates, London and Boston
Paper presented at STRATEGIES IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH: ISSUES AND RESULTS FROM ANALYSIS USING QSR NVIVO AND NUD*IST, conference at the Institute of Education, London - 29-30 September 2000
1 © 2000 Dr. Silvana di Gregorio - www.sdgassociates.com
Introduction Literature reviews are a common feature of all dissertations, regardless of discipline or subject matter. They feature as a basis for all other kinds of research or learned work. However, they are usually overlooked as a form of qualitative analysis. Yet the processes involved in building an argument from a body of literature are similar to processes involved in analysing qualitative data. The processes involved include: reading and reflecting; interacting with the literature/data and commenting on it; identifying key themes and coding for them; extracting from the codes 'gold dust' quotes to be used when writing up; linking similar ideas from different articles/ transcripts; identifying contradictions in arguments; comparing dissimilarities in articles/transcripts; building one's own argument/analysis with links to supporting evidence in the data/literature. Researchers have developed various strategies to deal with the amount of material a literature review generates. In the past, card index systems were used as tools but in the past few years, bibliographical software has emerged as the favoured tool to organise literature. Packages such as EndNote, Reference Manager, ProCite etc. have excellent tools to manage references. It is possible to download abstracts and, in some, whole articles to be included in the bibliographic database. They offer flexible ways to search and sort references. They have direct links with word-processing packages, making it easy to insert the correct citation at a point in the text. They also have the ability to generate bibliographies in the house styles appropriate to a wide range of journals. It is also possible to do some of the tasks similar to analysing qualitative data, mentioned above. It is possible to comment and reflect on an article, code it with certain key words etc. However, these packages were not designed for the analysis of data, so these processes can be carried out only in a limited way. A dedicated software analysis package is needed to support the analysis processes involved in a literature review. Software packages such as Atlas.ti, N4 Classic, N5, NVIVO, WinMax etc. can be used to support the analysis processes involved in a literature review. They do not replace the bibliographic software mentioned above, as they do not have the bibliographic tools that those packages have. But their analytical tools can be used in addition to the bibliographic tools to support the whole literature review process. Of all the qualitative analysis software packages, only NVIVO (to date) has a particular set of tools that is ideal for analysing literature. It is possible to analyse literature in the other packages mentioned, but their tools are not as flexible as NVIVO's are for this purpose. (However, these software packages are developing at a very fast rate, so this situation may change in the future.) The rest of this article will demonstrate the tools in NVIVO's toolkit which can support the various processes and strategies involved in constructing arguments from the literature. The example literature review (which is on the CD) is the beginning of a review on qualitative analysis and computer software. Strategy - Reading, reflecting on and extracting from an article/book Tool 1 - Proxy Documents The first step in any analysis of literature is to read! As you read, you want to summarise parts of the text that you want to remember. These may be passages that 2 © 2000 Dr. Silvana di Gregorio - www.sdgassociates.com
explain the author's central ideas, arguments etc. You summarise them so that you can remember the...