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Teaching NVivo using the Five-Level QDA Method: Adaptations for Synchronous Online Learning


NVivo Virtual Conference, Qualitative Research in a Changing World, September 23, 2020


One aspect of our lives that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is the way that we learn and teach. Using our week long MSc module “Harnessing NVivo” as the context, we discuss how our approach to teaching and learning NVivo – the Five-Level QDA method – weathered the necessary adaptations in the online context. The Five-Level QDA method is a pedagogy for teaching and learning dedicated qualitative software like NVivo that is designed to transcend methodologies and teaching modes.


Although successfully used by others in online teaching, prior to the pandemic we ourselves had primarily used the FiveLevel QDA method in face-to-face teaching and learning encounters. In this paper we describe the adaptations made in preparing and delivering the module as a synchronous online workshop, reflecting on the changes that worked well, as well as those that did not. We discuss how we reassessed our instructional objectives in light of the general characteristics and challenges of the online context, and the specificities of the video conferencing platform we used: Zoom.


We describe the subsequent changes we made to course materials, the sequencing and timing of content delivery, and how we sought to foster interaction amongst participants and between us and them. We conclude by reflecting on the pros and cons of synchronous teaching and learning of NVivo in face-to-face and online contexts.


The right tools for the job: affordances of dedicated CAQDAS-packages for high-quality analysis


AAPPOR webinar, Thursday, February 13, 2020, 12:00 Noon Central Time

Dedicated software programs designed to facilitate qualitative data analysis have been available since the mid-1980s. Collectively known as Computer Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS) packages, or Qualitative Data Analysis Software (QDAS) programs, there are many options to choose from.


This webinar will outline the broad analytic activities dedicated CAQDAS-packages are designed to facilitate, provide recommendations for making informed choices between products, and illustrate how their creative use can foster high-quality analysis, focusing on aspects relating to access, validation and transparency. 

Past Events 

MQIC 2020

The Five-Level QDA® Method: Using MAXQDA for Qualitative Data Analysis


MAXQDA International Conference, Berlin, February 26, 2020


In this workshop you will learn about the Five-Level QDA® method for harnessing MAXQDA’s tools for your analytic needs. This was developed by Nicholas Woolf and Christina Silver to unpack what expert MAXQDA users unconsciously do when they translate their analytic strategies into MAXQDA tools, regardless of their methodology.

This workshop is based on the recently published textbook Qualitative Analysis using MAXQDA: The Five-Level QDA® method (Woolf & Silver, 2018. Routledge).


The book explains the principles of the method and illustrates its use in a wide range of applications and methodologies.


The workshop includes discussion, demonstrations and small-group work, and provides opportunity for questions.

Getting the best out of CAQDAS packages – the Five-Level QDA® method


3rd World Conference on Qualitative Research (WCQR), Lisbon, October 2018


Many qualitative researchers don’t use CAQDAS packages because they are concerned the software will drive the process or force them to conform to a single style of data analysis. But there are also many researchers who have mastered the art of harnessing the software in the service of their analytic needs. We developedFive-LevelQDA as a way of describing what these experts unconsciously do.

Five-LevelQDA is not a method of data analysis, but a pedagogy for more quickly developing this expertise. The method recognizes that expert users of CAQDAS packages clearly distinguish their analytic strategies – what they plan to do – from their software tactics – how they plan to do it. The core of Five-LevelQDA is a process of conscious translation between strategies and tactics that ensures that the needs of the data analysis, and not the capabilities of the software, always drive the process.

In this session Christina will describe the genesis and principles of the Five-Level QDA method and provide illustrative examples of the translation process.

Harnessing CAQDAS packages


NCRM Methods Festival, University of Bath, July 2018 

Qualitative software is well-established and its use is widespread. Yet using CAQDAS packages can elicit an unconscious mindset resulting in cut-and-dried software features influencing the choices made in emergent and idiosyncratic analyses – to the detriment of the research.


The Five-Level QDA method overcomes this mindset by consciously distinguishing analytic strategies from software tactics to ensure that software capabilities do not drive the process.


This session describes the genesis and principles of the Five-Level QDA method and illustrates its application in different methodological and teaching contexts using three leading CAQDAS packages - ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA and NVivo.

Develop the expertise you need in ATLAS.ti: The Five-Level QDA®Method


ATLAS.ti User Conference, Berlin, June 2018

Workshop focussing on using the Five-Level QDA® method for harnessing ATLAS.ti's tools for your analytic needs. The workshop is in three parts: (a) The genesis and principles of the method, (b) the difference between software features and tools, and (c) an overview of the five steps of translation: Analytic Planning Worksheets and how to use them to translate strategies into tactics. The workshop includes discussion, demonstrations and small-group work, and provides opportunity for questions.

CAQDAS potential using the Five-Level QDA® method


High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, January 2018


This free half day seminar discussed the principles of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (CAQDAS) and how to harness their tools powerfully.


During the first session Christina introduced the range of potential affordances of CAQDAS packages for qualitative and mixed-methods research and outlined a pedagogy for harnessing their tools powerfully. This is followed up with a session discussing CAQDAS use in practice, providing examples of projects implemented in CAQDAS packages using the Five-Level QDA method. 

The Five-Level QDA method® - Using MAXQDA for qualitative analysis


MAXQDA User Conference, Berlin, March 2018 

Christina led this workshop as part of the 2018 MAXQDA International Conference providing an introduction to the Five-Level QDA® method, focussing on MAXQDA, which included an overview of Translating analytic strategies into software tactics

Don't let the software drive the process


Webinar published as part of the IIQM ATLAS.ti webinar series focussing on the principles of Five-LevelQDA, including the difference between strategies and tactics and the process of translation and then illustrating the process using examples from a variety of research projects.

Watch the webinar here

The Corvallis ATLAS.ti Summer Workshop Series


Oregan State University, Corvallis, USA, July 2017


Christina Silver & Nick Woolf taught on the Advanced sessions (July 12-14). Approaches to qualitative data analysis using ATLAS.ti, during which they discussed the principles of their CAQDAS pedagogy - the Five-Level QDA(R) method - and illustrated its application using three project examples (an in-depth literature review, a grounded theory project and a participatory visual analysis project). 

Literature reviews with MAXQDA


MAXQDA International Conference in Berlin, March 2017. 


The aim was to open up thinking about the potential role of MAXQDA in conducting literature reviews and linking up with primary (and/or secondary) data to result in a more comprehensive and rounded research project.

CAQDAS at a Crossroads: Controversies, Challenges, Choices

1st International Symposium on Qualitative Research (ISQR2016), Porto, Portugal , July 2016

In this presentation Christina discussed the current state of Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (CAQDAS) and the critical issues researchers now face for the future of qualitative data analysis in an increasingly digital world.


She began with a potted history of CAQDAS, and then considered the questionable relevance of continued controversies around the use of these technologies, given the length of time they have been available, their role in analysis, and the increasing focus on mixed methods, big data and collaborative research.


She went on to discuss the challenges involved in learning about and harnessing CAQDAS tools powerfully, drawing on her own and colleagues’ experiences of using and teaching these technologies over the past 20 years.


Christina argued that the qualitative research community is at a crossroads in terms of the choices we make now in fully embedding CAQDAS into our professional practices.


She focused on the responsibilities we have in adequately preparing current and future generations of researchers to undertake high-quality analysis using CAQDAS packages, and presented the Five-Level QDA method,  a pedagogy which transcends methodologies, software programs and teaching modes. Five-Level QDA is a way of describing what expert CAQDAS users already do, and centres on the distinction between analytic strategies (what you plan to do) and analytic tactics (how you plan to do it), and the process of translation between them which enables software tools to be selected or constructed appropriately in the service of specific analytic tasks. 


Watch a short interview with Christina recorded at the ISQR2016 conference here

Digital tools in Social Science


Copenhagen University Library, April 2015 


Christina Silver presented the first seminar at the pre-opening of the Digital Social Science Lab (DSSL).


She focused on the principles of using CAQDAS packages in social science research and discussed the role of software, key considerations in making an informed choice between products, planning for software use and demonstrated some research projects in different CAQDAS packages. 

You can watch a short video about the session here.

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