What is QDA software?

And how can you use reference management software when you're working with it?

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Many of our readers are likely aware that Citavi was recently acquired by QSR International, an academic software company that makes the leading QDA software NVivo. However, if you don’t use qualitative analysis in your field, you might only have a vague idea of what QDA software is and when you might use it. And you might wonder how a reference management tool can be used alongside it and, if so, for what purpose. If so, this blog post can help.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Data Analysis

First, let’s distinguish between quantitative and qualitative data analysis. As the name implies, quantitative data analysis has to do with numbers. For example, any time you are doing statistical analysis, you are doing quantitative data analysis. Some examples of quantitative data analysis software are SPSS, STATA and SAS.

In contrast, qualitative data analysis "helps you understand people’s perceptions and experiences by systematically coding and analyzing the data" as the website «GradCoach» puts it. It tends to deal more with words than numbers. It can be useful when working with a lot of rich and deep data and when you aren’t trying to test something very specific. Some examples of qualitative data analysis software are NVivo, MAXQDA, ATLAS.ti, and Quirkos.

When would you use each one? Well, qualitative data analysis is often used for exploratory research or developing a theory, whereas quantitative is better if you want to test a hypothesis, find averages, and determine relationships between variables. With quantitative research you often want a large sample size to get relevant statistics. In contrast, qualitative research, because so much data in the form of text is involved, can have much smaller sample sizes and still yield valuable insights.

Of course, it’s not always so cut and dry, and many researchers end up taking a «mixed methods» approach, meaning that they combine both types of research. In this case they might use a combination of both types of software programs.

How can reference management software be used together with QDA software

QDA software is typically used to help you analyze the results from your original research. Reference management software, on the other hand, can help you be more efficient in the other stages of the research process. You can think of QDA software as being for your primary research and analysis, while your reference management program is where you take care of any tasks related to your supporting literature. In the illustration below and in the rest of this post, we look specifically at Citavi and NVivo.

Below I’ll look at the ways Citavi can speed up your process and how it can be used together with NVivo when taking notes or writing literature reviews. Please keep in mind that not all other reference management or QDA programs will have the same features as listed below, and that you may need to make use of additional programs to get the same results.

Reference management software for finding and organizing sources

Citavi helps you keep better track of the sources you already have and also locate new ones. The Picker browser extensions help you bring in journal articles and web content with just a click, saving you from the hassle of exporting results from databases, although you can still do so for large result sets if you want to. An integrated RSS feed reader lets you add search alerts from databases you frequently consult so that you can directly add the latest publications on your research topic to your project.

Citavi for creating outlines for a paper as you work

Citavi’s multilevel category system lets you create a detailed outline for your paper. You can then better organize your sources and any notes you take before you start writing your publication draft. As your project grows, your category system can change along with it. 

Citavi or another task tracking tool for planning and tracking tasks in one place

Citavi helps you keep track of important project deadlines and other tasks related to your research project. When you read texts, you can even add tasks to text passages. For example, if you later want to discuss a finding with a colleague or if you want to fact check a particular claim, you can highlight the text in question and create a task for yourself. You can always jump back from the task to the section of the document it was added to, which saves you from having to hunt for it. When collaborating with others, it’s easy to assign tasks to team members and track their progress.

Taking and organizing notes your way – whether in Citavi, your QDA tool, or in Excel

Both Citavi and QDA tools can be used for taking notes. In NVivo, for example, you can add annotations and memos about your literature and view them in tabs, and the notes remain tethered to the original source. In Citavi you can annotate in a similar way, but the difference is that your notes can be organized by topic and tagged separate from the original source. Alternatively, Excel can also be a good choice for taking notes and tracking themes across the literature for a literature review.

Regardless of which program you use for your notes, having them in digital format and all in one place can help you avoid wasting time searching stacks of printed out articles or notebooks when you later want to start writing.

Options for writing literature reviews

As mentioned just now, Excel or Google Sheets can be a great tool for a literature review. However, because it isn’t a database, it is more difficult to search across, and it has other limitations as well.

Both Citavi and NVivo can help with writing a literature review, and each program has its own strengths. This is likely true for other combinations of reference management and QDA programs as well. However, here we’ll just focus on Citavi and NVivo.

With Citavi, the notes you take while reading can be tagged and organized as individual elements. In the Knowledge Organizer you can then compare and contrast ideas across the literature and bring them into a preliminary outline. The source information goes along with your notes, so you don’t have to worry about tracking down citations when you go to write.

For a much more detailed picture of the literature without having to read each article first, you can export references from Citavi and then import them into NVivo. NVivo can help you gain insights and track trends and themes across the literature with automated coding and advanced queries, and it can also generate visualizations. You can combine these powerful features with your own coding to get an overview of the relationships between articles, find gaps in the literature, see which authors have collaborated with or cited each other, get an idea of which authors or works have had the biggest impact in your field, etc.

Writing up your research, fast

Both approaches to the literature review can be combined in Word. You can export your analysis from NVivo to Word and then use the Citavi Word Add-In to insert any citations you need to add to your analysis. 

Beyond the literature review, coding for your original research findings, and maps, charts, and other visualizations created in NVivo can also be exported to Word. From the Citavi Word Add-In you can insert any of the notes from your project that you took while reading. The Word Add-In makes writing more efficient, since you have all of the literature and notes you need at your fingertips and don’t have to switch between documents or apps while writing. 

By inserting your category system from Citavi into the document, you can even use a “chapter view” to filter out only the notes and citations you need for a particular section so that you stay focused as you write. As you insert items, the bibliography is automatically generated, and if you find that you need to change citation styles for submission to a different journal, just select the one you want, and the entire document is updated in seconds. 

Although this blog post has focused mainly on how Citavi and NVivo can be used together, we hope that it has also been useful for you if you work with alternative programs. As always, please let us know what you think by writing to us at blog@citavi.com or commenting on the Facebook post for this blog post

Most of this blog post originally appeared on the NVivo blog at https://www.qsrinternational.com/nvivo-qualitative-data-analysis-software/resources/blog/speed-up-publishing-with-nvivo-and-citavi. It has been reworked for this post.



Created by: Jennifer Schultz – Published on: 4/20/2021
Tags: Graduate students Good to know Workflow

About Jennifer Schultz

Jennifer Schultz is the sole American team member at Citavi, but her colleagues don’t hold that against her (usually). Supporting research interests her so much that she got a degree in it, but she also likes learning difficult languages, being out in nature, and having her nose in a book.

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