7 unique things that make Quirkos awesome

quirkos is awesome


Quirkos is now 3 years old!

To celebrate, we’re taking a break from our regular programming of qualitative method posts to remind everyone why Quirkos is the best qualitative analysis software around...

 

1. All the colours!

Obviously I’m going to start with the most important features first. Some qualitative analysis software restricts you to only 8 colours when customising your themes. Quirkos lets you choose from 16 million colours and that may sound daft, but once you have a large coding framework, giving similar shades of colour to similar themes really makes the coding quicker. Many people find they can identify a colour a lot quicker than they can read a label. You can also easily assign meaning to colours: red things being bad, green things for the environment etc.

 

2. Interactive coding

It’s the moment I’ve come to love most when doing training workshops, the ‘Ahhh!’ of the audience when they see the bubbles grow for the first time when you drop text on them. And so quickly you realise that it is a lot more than a gimmick: having the size of the themes represent the coding lets you see not just that you put the code in the right place, but what topics are emerging most from your coding. It makes me feel a lot closer to my data, and seeing the themes evolve is really engaging.

 

download quirkos

 

3. No Save button

Quirkos is constantly saving after each action, so there is no save button in the interface. I think this initially causes some anxiety in users used to setting up an auto-save or worrying they will loose data. But eventually, it becomes so liberating to just focus on your work. If Quirkos or Windows crashes, or even if you pull out the cord on your computer, when you come back to your project it will be just as you left it.

 

4. Quick and free to learn.

We designed Quirkos to be simple, with the main features you need to do deep analysis and reading of your data, and no distractions from flashy or complex features. A lot of people come to Quirkos after despairing at the amount of time it takes to learn other software packages. Most people who do qualitative analysis aren’t interested in learning technical software. They just want to focus on their research ideas and the data.

All our training materials are freely available online, even our monthly webinars which (unlike others) we don’t charge for or require registration. Some CAQDAS packages can require a lot of extra training, a cost in terms of time and money that institutions sometimes forget to factor in.

 

5. True cross-platform freedom

Quirkos not only has the same features and interface on Windows and Mac, but is fully supported on Linux as well. And project files are completely compatible, so you can pick up and work on any computer using any operating system. If you have Windows at work and a Macbook at home, no problem. We are the only CAQDAS software to support all these platforms, and unlike Nvivo, we let you go from Mac to Windows (and back) without changing your files.

 

6. Free updates

When I was working with other qualitative software for my post-doc research, we had serious problems when new versions of the software came out. It would create new (and terrifying bugs), require us to buy a new licence, and made our data no longer compatible with the old version. Since academic organisations aren’t always the most speedy at installing updates, it meant that we always had issues with a collaborator using an older (or newer) version of the software that wasn’t compatible. This frustrated me so much, I have promised this will not happen in Quirkos.


Over the last 3 years we’ve released 6 updated versions of Quirkos now, and they are all free updates, backward and forward compatible. This means that there is no reason for anyone to be stuck using an old version, and even if they didn’t bother to download the free update, they can still collaborate fully with colleagues using different versions.

 

7. Student licences that don’t expire

In the UK, a typical PhD lasts 4 years, in the US the average is 8.2 years. If you are doing teaching as part of your scholarship or are doing doctoral studies part time, this can get even longer. That’s why our student licences don’t expire. I don’t know why our competitors sell 1 or 2 year licences for students – it always annoyed me when I was studying. Unless you are doing your masters, you’ll probably have to buy another one half way through your research. Sure, you can buy last minute after you’ve done all your data collection, but that is a bad way to do iterative qualitative analysis.

 

Our student licences are the same price (or cheaper) than most other one or two year licences, but are yours for life: for your postdoc career and beyond. I don’t want to see people loose access to their data, and it’s no surprise that we sell so many student licences.

 

So try Quirkos for yourself, and see why researchers from more than 120 universities across the world use it to make their their qualitative analysis go a bit smoother. We’ve got a one month free trial of the full, unrestricted version of Quirkos for you to download right here (that’s also the longest free trial offered for CAQDAS!).

 

Preparing data sources for qualitative analysis

preparing qualitative text

 

Qualitative software used to need you to format text files in very specific ways before they could be imported. These days the software is much more capable and means you can import nearly any kind of text data in any kind of formatting, which allows for a lot more flexibility.


However, that easy-going nature can let you get away with some pretty lazy habits. You’ll probably find your analysis (and even data collection and transcription) can go a lot smoother if you’ve set a uniform style or template for your data before hand. This article will cover some of the formatting and meta-data you might want to consider getting in a consistent form before you start it.

 

Part of this should also be a consistent way to record research procedures and your own reflections on the data collection. Sometimes this can be a little adhoc, especially when relying on a research diary, but designing a standard post-interview debriefing form for the interviewer at the same time as creating a semi-structured interview guide can make it much easier to compare interviewer reflections across sources.


So for example you could have a field to record how comfortable the interview setting was, whether the participant was nervous about sharing, if questions were missed or need follow-up. Having these as separate source property fields allows you to compare sources with similar contexts and see if that had an noticeable effect on the participants data.

 

For transcribed interviews, have a standard format for questions and answers, and make sure that it’s clear who is who. Formatting for focus groups demands particular attention to formatting, as some software will help you identify responses from each participant in a group session when done in a particular way. Unfortunately Quirkos doesn’t support this at the moment, but with focus group data it is important to make sure that each transcription is formatted in the same way, and that the identifiers for each user are unique. So for example if you are using initials for each respondent such as:


JT: I’m not sure about that statement.
FA: It doesn’t really speak to me


Make sure that there aren’t people with the same initials in other sessions, and consider having unique participant numbers which will also help better anonymise the data.


A formatting standard is especially important if you have a team project where there are multiple interviewers and transcribers. Make sure they are using the same formatting for pauses, emphasis and identifying speakers. The guide to transcription in a previous blog post covers some of the things you will want to standardise. Some people prefer to read through the transcripts checking for typos and inaccuracies, possibly even while listening to the audio recording of the session. It can be tempting to assume you will pick these up when reading through the data for analysis, but you may find that correcting typos breaks your train of thought too often.


Also consider if your sources will need page, paragraph or sentence numbers in the transcript, and how these will be displayed in your software of choice. Not all software supports the display of line/paragraph numbers, and it is getting increasingly rare to use them to reference sources, since text search on a computer is so fast.


You’ll see a few guides that suggest preparing for your analysis by using a database or spreadsheet to keep track of your participant data. This can help manage who has been interviewed, set dates for interviews, note return of consent forms and keep contact and demographic information. However, all CAQDAS software (not just Quirkos) can store this kind of information about data sources in the project file with the data. It can actually be beneficial to set up your project before-hand in QDA software, and use it to document your data and even keep your research journal before you have collected the data.

 

Doing this in advance also makes sure you plan to collect all the extra data you will need on your sources, and not have to go back and ask someone’s occupation after the interview. There is more detail in this article on data collection and preparation techniques.

 

download qualitative analysis


As we’ve mentioned before, qualitative analysis software can also be used for literature reviews, or even just keeping relevant journal articles and documents together and taggable. However, you can even go further and keep your participant data in the project file, saving time entering the data again once it is collated.


Finally, being well prepared will help at the end of your research as well. Having a consistent style defined before you start data entry and transcription can also make sure that any quotes you use in write-ups and outputs look the same, saving you time tidying up before publication.


If you have any extra tips or tricks on preparing data for analysis, please share them on our Twitter feed @quirkossoftware and we will add them to the debate. And don’t forget to download a free trial of Quirkos, or watch a quick overview video to see how it helps you turn well prepared data into well prepared qualitative analysis.

 

 

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter