The Five-Level QDA(R) method for harnessing
CAQDAS packages powerfully
Software is cut-and-dried – every button you press has a predictable effect – but qualitative analysis is open-ended and unfolds in unpredictable ways. This contradiction is best resolved by separating analytic strategies – what you plan to do – from software tactics – how you plan to do it. Expert CAQDAS users have unconsciously learned to do this. The Five-Level QDA method unpacks the process so that you can learn it consciously and efficiently.
It is based on Nick and Christina's combined 40 years of experience teaching CAQDAS packages as platforms for conducting qualitative analysis. After many years observing our students’ challenges we developed the Five-Level QDA method to describe the process that long-time CAQDAS experts unconsciously adopt. The Five-Level QDA method is independent of software program or methodology, and the principles apply to any type of qualitative project.
The Five-Level QDA(R) method for harnessing CAQDAS packages powerfully
"At last—3 user friendly books that bridge the gap between the researcher’s methodological goals and the capabilities of the software package. These books, targeted towards your particular software program, will assist you in maintaining/protecting the integrity of the methodological aspects of a study. Rather than enabling the software capabilities to drive the analytic process, they will assist you to take full advantage of the power that the software has to offer.
The books contain examples that offer a window into how expert CAQDAS users have learned to accomplish this with much practice in many projects. Each book offers an opportunity to learn as quickly as possible the process as used by experts. For instructors, the book provides a way to embed CAQDAS training into your qualitative research curricula".
In a nutshell, the Five-Level QDA principles are:
clearly distinguish analytic strategies from software tactics
recognise the inherent contradiction between the emergent strategies of qualitative research and the cut-and-dried nature of the software tactics
understand that there are alternative ways of reconciling these contradictions
choose to reconcile the contradiction in a manner that leads to using the CAQDAS package powerfully. Five-Level QDA resolves the contradiction through a conscious process of translation between strategies and tactics
Three parts to each book
Each book follows the same structure, comprising three parts, each of which has three chapters:
Part 1: The principles of the Five-Level QDA method
Mastering the method means first learning the principles before hands-on use of the software. Chapter 1 lays the groundwork with the central principle – the contradiction between strategies and tactics when using a CAQDAS package to conduct qualitative analysis, and alternative ways to reconcile the contradiction. Chapter 2 fleshes out the first two levels of strategy and Chapter 3 deals with translating strategies into tactics.
Part 2: The Five-Level QDA method in practice
These chapters apply the principles. Chapter 4 provides an orientation to the software – either ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA or NVivo – and for those working in teams. Chapter 5 describes in depth how the software works in terms of Five-Level QDA principles. Chapter 6 describes in depth the steps of the translating strategies into tactics, with examples from a variety of research projects.
Part 3: Case illustrations
These chapters illustrate the Five-Level QDA method in a variety of real-world qualitative research projects. Chapter 7 explains how to learn by analogy from the case illustrations in order to transfer the underlying process. Chapters 8 and 9 contain complete documentation of two full-case illustrations provided by researchers who have used the software for their own work.
Each book is accompanied by three sets of videos demonstrations on the Companion Website.
What if you use a different CAQDAS package?
The Five-Level QDA method transcends software programs and methodologies, so the principles apply whatever CAQDAS pacakage you are using and whatever type of project you are undertaking. We were only able to write three books at once, but hope to publish books for other CAQDAS packages in the future. Watch this space...
To find out more
Read about how the Five-Level QDA method came about in our 2015 article From guided instruction to facilitation of learning: The development of Five-level QDA as a CAQDAS pedagogy that explicates the practices of expert users. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 18(5).
Read a brief overview of the Five-Level QDA method in Nick’s blogpost “What is Five-Level QDA all about?”
or for a fuller account see our post on the Digital Tools for Social Research blog