Distraction Free Reading

On Tools & Techniques

We all know that robust tools can help facilitate research, but we do not always have the time to test the latest products and processes. Here’s a place to offer advice, suggestions, and ask for help on how to tackle specific problems. What software have you found helpful for capturing data, transcribing interaction, conducting research, or analyzing findings? What problems tend to come up? Are there techniques in conceptualization, mapping, coding or other stages of the research process that you have identified as particularly helpful? Feel free to share information about what worked and what didn’t when using technology to gain insight into your projects.


  • Dr Andus says:

    Hi Patricia,
    thank you for getting this started! I think there should be a lot more discussion about the use of research tools out there. Regarding qualitative data analysis and as a general database for qualitative research material, I would like to recommend ConnectedText, which is a desktop wiki that I had switched to after I felt limited by NVivo during the coding of my data. I even came up with a set of tutorials to share my experience. I’m a little bit obsessed with trying out software tools for research and writing; you can find the latest description of my software assemblage here. I look forward to finding out about other people’s experiences.
    Dr Andus

  • I couldn’t agree with you more Dr. Andus. Tools can make the difference for the success of a project, yet with the pacing of research, it is virtually impossible to try a few things, much less everything, out. I really appreciate your posting your links to ConnectedText, your tutorials and other materials. I too hope we can generate some conversation on this.

    It would truly be ironic if STS people did not consider how tools influenced was learned and what was possible to learn when doing research. I could envision a project–perhaps a doctoral dissertation–that compared the epistemology and knowledge outcomes that emerged from using different tools and packages. Any takers?

  • Dr Andus says:

    I do not want to speak too soon (as I haven’t finished my dissertation yet), but I have a very strong sense of how I couldn’t make progress with developing an argument, drawing conclusions and starting with the writing until I had assembled my own idiosyncratic arrangement of software and hardware tools and developed a specific process workflow that suited the empirical material at hand and my specific research approach.

    I agree that it would be interesting to have a comparison of the epistemological constraints and ontological conditioning of the various qualitative analysis software tools out there. It’s well-known for instance that the development of Atlas.ti was influenced by grounded theory. Also, I found the way NVivo conditioned the visualisation of data and codes interfered with my ability to abstract.

    On the other hand ConnectedText allowed me to develop my own model of “abstraction by way of extraction,” whereby I could maintain and trace the links between the empirical data and my findings through several rounds of abstraction, while retaining a sense of the overall shape of the story and the data. Also, wikis are based on a flat network metaphor, as opposed to let’s say the hierarchical folder structure, which underlies many software tools and which results in different ways of organising and experiencing one’s data.

  • Karen Michaelson says:

    Interesting article by Kuehn on the ConnectedText site looks at the history of note taking, ConnectedText, etc.

  • Dr Andus says:

    Yes, Manfred Kuehn (who is an early adopter of ConnectedText) claims that wikis such as CT can be used as an electronic version of the traditional “index cards in a slip-box” system for note-taking and coding, such Luhmann’s famous “Zettelkasten.” Kuehn’s blog, Taking Note, is a must-read on software tools for research.

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