NVivo 10: First Steps

Pretty regularly, I am asked to do NVivo trainings.  Remember, that NVivo is a qualitative analysis software package.  Often, requests are by faculty who are thinking about adding a qualitative component to their research or maybe they are thinking about doing a qualitative research project.  Sometimes faculty requests are rather specific (they might need some specific help with a type of coding or such), but for the most part, a lot of people just need help getting off the ground with NVivo.

The Basics:

QSR International offers a free two week trial of NVivo.  A license for an Individual Starter Pack will set you back $700, while a 2-year license for the Pro license is $710.  There is a fundamentals course that can be added on for $100.

This is all well and good.  But the best part is that QSR International has a Youtube Channel with 21 “how-to” videos to get up and running.  The hits:

Importing PDFs in NVivo 10 in 1 minute:

Creating codes (read: nodes) in NVivo 10 in 2 minutes:

Creating a word frequency query in NVivo 10 in 4 minutes:

Actually pretty great.


Learning How We Write with Sarah Read

During a research leave this past Spring Quarter, Assistant Professor Sarah Read of Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse (WRD) has been utilizing ATLAS.ti in the SSRC’s computer lab for her ethnographic project at the facility that operates the world’s fifth largest supercomputer.  With visiting privileges from Argonne National Laboratory as a guest faculty researcher, Sarah is analyzing the technical documentation and reporting processes of the Argonne Leadership Computing Center where the cutting-edge machine is housed. She is studying technical documentation and reporting processes with a focus on the daily activities of the “knowledge workers” who operate it. Her focus is on writing, traced through documentation related to and generated by the supercomputing center.


“I think it’s fascinating to create an account of what it takes to build and operate a world-class supercomputer,” Sarah said. Through her interviews with supercomputing center staff, Sarah has been delighted to discover that they “think like researchers” themselves, tackling uncharted terrain in what is “essentially a research project in supercomputing.” Every year the staff prepares a report on operations required by their sponsoring federal agency. In this report they demonstrate how the facility has met the metrics of availability, utilization and capability supported by data that staff must work out how to generate. “It’s a big machine. It’s not easy,” she notes. Nothing is pre-formed. Staff have no manual to consult when the machine fails, no button to press to spit out the right data. Figuring out how to “write down the machine” is a complex, research-based task itself.

A theory-driven researcher and ethnographer, Sarah describes herself as “fundamentally a rhetorician, but I study it in technical environments.” The project combines her competing interests and background in writing, science and the humanities. “I consider myself a collector of qualitative data, but I don’t consider myself really a social scientist. I’m kind of in a grey area epistemologically,” she explains. Her ethnographic approach, which interests her in “the theory-driven points of view,” permits her to admit to strong biases. “I think there’s value in creating descriptive accounts of phenomenon within new theoretical frameworks that make visible previously invisible aspects of that phenomenon” she said. “It makes the strange mundane and the mundane strange again.”

As a self-taught, new fan of ATLAS.ti, Sarah too is learning as she progresses, experimenting with how to make the application work within her methodologies. This spring she worked hard with the networking view tool and is now concentrating on coding. ATLAS is “very object-oriented,” she said, treating chunks of a transcript as a whole document. She’s impressed with its analytical power and its visual capabilities that helpfully reveal networked relationships among research artifacts. “It’s a tool for analysis, but network views can also be research products” she noted.

Currently Sarah is continuing to code interview data for an article about how gathering data for the operations report structures staff work activities at the supercomputing facility. She is also writing a proposal for a book about the infrastructural function of writing and documentation for technical organizations.

Sarah offers to share what she’s learned about ATLAS.ti with other DePaul researchers. She’s found that talking through the process is mutually beneficial. If you’re interested in learning more about the application, please contact the SSRC[ssrc@depaul.edu] or Sarah [sread@depaul.edu].

The SSRC announces the Graduate Student Collaboration Fellowship 2014-2015

It can be prohibitively difficult for graduate students of terminal master’s degree programs to be well-positioned for success in PhD programs. The convention of traditional terminal master’s programs to emphasize non-analytical skills and non-research activities may preclude some MA graduates from developing the solid foundations necessary for rigorous doctoral study. Moreover, DePaul’s status as a commuter school for many students makes collaboration among grad students a difficult and time consuming endeavor with uncertain payoffs. What many graduate students need is dedicated space for scholarship and collaboration (with other graduate students and faculty), as well as opportunities to learn new methods and skills, in a way that complements their current course of study.

8052025538_dd6764d9d6_oThe Social Science Research Center’s (SSRC) Graduate Student Collaboration Fellowship (GSCF) addresses these needs. This new fellowship program in quantitative inquiry and methods will offer three graduate students office space, interdisciplinary collaboration, technical assistance in statistics and methodology, as well as opportunities to learn new software programs. The inaugural fellowship will occur during the fall and spring quarters of the 2014-2015 academic year. In exchange for training, mentorship, technical assistance, and physical resources provided by the SSRC, GSCF fellows will participate and assist in SSRC programming and research for 4-8 hours a week.

Application materials are due by September 15, 2014. The three applications selected as fellows will be announced October 1, 2014. Fellowships may be renewed if the participant demonstrates substantial progress and could benefit from continued development with SSRC resources.

Applications should be sent to Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr@depaul.edu.

Full application requirements and instructions can be found here: http://condor.depaul.edu/ssrc/fellowships.html

Certificate in Qualitative Research Methods: Summer Session

After a successful first run, the SSRC will again offer a certificate course in qualitative research methods. The course will run on Saturdays from June 2 – July 7 (with no class on June 30).

This course will teach students the fundamentals of scientific qualitative research design and how to conduct the most common types of qualitative field research, including in-depth interviews, ethnography, life narratives, focus groups, and participant observation. Students will get hands-on, practical experience designing and conducting qualitative research, including data collection techniques. By its conclusion, they’ll be able to:

  • Develop and elucidate testable hypotheses
  • Understand how social theory and specific research methods work together
  • Recognize an appropriate methodology based on research questions and develop a corresponding research design
  • Craft quality control mechanisms for data collection activities
  • Design data collection instruments
  • Enumerate various ethical and political dilemmas in qualitative research
  • Conduct qualitative field research
  • Identify the most common qualitative field research pitfalls and strategies to avoid them

Chicago-area professionals working within behavioral and/or social science research and those just wanting to bolster their marketable research skills will benefit from the certificate program.

Recent graduates, both graduate and undergraduate, current graduate students, and advanced upperclassmen considering a career in social or behavioral science fields or graduate programs in sociology, psychology, anthropology, public service, policy studies, social work, and public health would also benefit.

Registration is now open! Contact Jessica Speer (jspeer3 at depaul.edu) to learn more.

Using Census Data

This Is a Card Puncher, an Integral Part of the Tabulation System Used by the United States Census Bureau to Compile the Thousands of Facts Gathered by the Bureau. Holes Are Punched in the Card According to a Prearranged Code Transferring the Facts From the Census Questionaire Into Statistics.

Working with census data can be tricky. There’s so much of it, and there are so many new tools to use. (Fortunately, we no longer use the card punchers seen in the photo above, circa 1950.)

Infopeople, a non-profit organization that trains reference librarians, has a series of archived webinars on how to use census data.

Part one (Census Data: Your Table Is Waiting) deals with finding and accessing census data from the 2010 Census.

Part two (The Census: American Community Survey) offers insight into working with the more frequent census survey and using the new online access tool American FactFinder.

Part three (I Didn’t Know the Census Bureau Did That!) digs deeper, focusing on accessing and using data from lesser-known Census Bureau surveys.

The webinars are led by Linda Clark, from the US Census Bureau. Site registration is required to view the archived webinars

HyperRESEARCH Mac-based qualitative data analysis

If you are a qualitative researcher and Mac-user, you might be interested in using HyperRESEARCH, a Mac-native computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS). The SSRC will be offering a HyperRESEARCH workshop in the fall. Meanwhile, ResearchWare, the creators of HyperRESEARCH, are offering a free webinar to introduce the software next Wednesday, June 15. From ResearchWare:

On Wednesday, June 15th, at 12:00 Noon EDT, ResearchWare will host a webinar on “HyperRESEARCH Basics”. This webinar is designed as a basic orientation to the “code & retrieve” process using HyperRESEARCH. To join our webinar, go to https://www3.gotomeeting.com/join/623084630. You will be connected to audio using your computer’s speakers (VoIP). A headset is recommended. The meeting ID is 623-084-630
ResearchWare is also offering live online chat sessions to help researchers on the following days:

  • Monday, June 13, 2pm – 4pm EDT
  • Wednesday, June 22, 2pm – 4pm EDT
  • Monday, June 27, Noon – 2pm EDT

Note that you must register on the website (free) to participate in the chats. You can access ResearchWare chats by going to http://researchware.com, registering or logging in, and choosing “Chat” from the “Community” website. ResearchWare also keeps an archive of previous chat sessions here: