After sitting on my raw data for three weeks, it’s time to face the facts – that they will remain ‘raw’ unless I started ‘cooking’ them. Just for the record – ‘raw data’ here means, a whole lot of information collected by an overzealous researcher (me…:-P) and given by (most of the time) all the ‘hold no bar’ kinda of respondents back home. So when you put two and two together, I am actually overloaded with information.
I have to do something, right?! But what, how, where??
Initially, I considered using the Melbourne-born CAQDAS – Nvivo (QSR) (yes, everyone, NVivo is made in Melbourne, Australia, with one co-developer -husband & wife team- was a lecturer in Latrobe University once) in managing my transcripts. I went to all the workshops and training. But because I have to finish my transcripts, I did not immediately practice what I have learnt (bad practice). I asked around and it seems that not that many people used it or even if they had, they found it not useful. I then started to doubt the usage of the program. So I sat down, browsed, researched, rethink, and fiddled with the program and made up my mind that, the programs has its benefits and limits, and I am going to use it after all.
First and foremost, I think it’s wrong for me to generalise on the capabilities of the program based on only several people’s point of views. I may have asked the wrong people for all that matter. There might be other factors affecting the person’s judgement of the program, for instance shortage of time, lack of training, the appropriateness and kinds of data or perhaps the levels of expectations…and maybe from which generation one came from he…he…he…
I see NVivo as that great IKEA wardrobe system I dreamt off back home (I will get it one day!). It sorts your things for you. It has all that fancy drawers with compartments, hanging socks thingy, special kind of hangers and the list goes on. But until that day come when human kind design an android that can fold and sort through your laundry, iron them and hang them or put them in the right compartments of your wardrobe, you have to do it manually and ‘rightly’! For instance, a wardrobe system with a drawer compartmentalized especially for your socks, will not make your life easy in finding them, if you just chuck them in there in no order whatsoever, or worst you don’t actually put them there! Further, even if everything is in place, the wardrobe cannot assist you in choosing the right kind of dress to wear, or what goes with what. It is not a fashion consultant. You have to make that decision yourself. But it is surely handy to make that choice quickly if everything is sorted in an orderly fashion. So that is NVivo. If you have higher expectations than that, then NVivo is not for you. There’s no point in having a fancy and expensive wardrobe, if you don’t use them to their best advantage.
Hence, in a comparative analysis, in order to use NVivo to its best advantage, one has to first learn of all the capabilities of the program, then choose which utilities of the program will be the most beneficial to one’s data. For instance, in a wardrobe system as vast as the IKEA ones, not all would be beneficial to you. What’s the point of having or using a tie hanger, if you don’t wear tie. Similarly in NVivo, you need to rightly choose which of its functions will benefit you the most, and not try to use them all up and wonder why it’s not really that helpful. And as has been highlighted above, none of the data can creep by itself into the program. You have to manually do it by yourself. Some may need to be edited and sorted before it would be ready to be imported into the program. All this prep takes hours, long hours. Although there are some techniques in making importations of data into the program faster, but they may not be suitable for all sorts of data. Also, at the end of the day, whichever theme or codes you choose in coding and making sense of it all, is totally up to you. NVivo is not a coding/theme/analysis-android (yet) 😉 But at the end of the day, if you do it accordingly, it will eventually saves you a lot of time and headache in having to sieve through your data, and be lost in it over and over again.
Having said all that, I think it’s a good idea for everyone contemplating qualitative research to undergo an introduction course to NVivo before they even embark on their research, so as to take advantage of some of the unique features of the program. Then if one choose to use it, to again go for training immediately after completion of data collection and if possible a refresher course in the midst of using the program, which would be really helpful, indeed.
I am going to dive in now, but first I have to go find all the right equipment (and a little bit of training DIY style) 😉