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Note: Leuphana University does not offer a team license at the moment. Furthermore, we do not recommend to use MAXQDA in a group of more than ten people.
What, Why & When
MAXQDA is a software program designed for qualitative data analysis. It offers a range of tools and functions to assist researchers throughout the various stages of qualitative research, including data collection, coding, analysis, and interpretation. The logic of MAXQDA aligns with the workflow of a qualitative researcher, as described by Kuckartz (1). Researchers can benefit from MAXQDA's ability to analyze non-numerical data such as text, audio, and video, making it a versatile tool across diverse knowledge domains. Interconnectivity features allow researchers to link different elements of their projects and always maintain a clear connection between the code and the original coded segment.
The primary goal of MAXQDA is to facilitate qualitative data analysis by providing researchers with tools to organize, code and analyze their data. It aims to assist researchers in making sense of their data by offering data visualization and interpretation tools. MAXQDA's goal is to support the qualitative research process and enhance researchers' ability to extract or generate meaningful insights from their data.
Before you start
Before you start, familiarize yourself with MAXQDA and the qualitative research process. This helps you to avoid common pitfalls (2), such as deficient data preparation, overly complicated coding systems and incorrect interpretation of visualizations. It's important to note that while there are different tools in MAXQDA that can be used for the same task (e.g. summary, memo, comment, paraphrase), they do not link to the same analysis functions afterwards. Therefore researchers should consider their intended use before they choose a tool and start coding.
The first step is to upload your documents to MAXQDA and gain a first rough understanding of your material by identifying important themes or patterns. MAXQDA provides various features for data exploration. Researchers can utilize tools such as highlighting text in different colors based on a system to visually mark and organize important information. Moreover, researchers can attach memos to documents, allowing them to record additional information, thoughts or insights related to specific parts of the data. Memos provide valuable background information and annotations, adding a deeper context to the analysis.
Once you have a grasp of your data, you can start coding. While MAXQDA offers tools to support the coding process for both inductive and deductive coding, it does not perform the coding itself (exception: autocode). It is essential to familiarize yourself with the different coding tools (3) (e.g. In-Vivo, Smart Coding, Creative Coding) in order to choose the most appropriate coding approach for your research goals.
A word of advice here: Many early career researchers struggle initially with the coding, and feel insecure throughout the process. It is important to note that there is no simple recipe how to code and derive constructs out of your data. Instead, look at it like this: you know your data sources best, and it is part of your independent research to develop a coding scheme especially for your dataset. Imagine you have 30 texts that you want to code: Would it make sense - as a simple example - to divide these into thirty groups? Or would it make sense to divide these into only 2 groups? Considering coding elements in the framework of a grounded truth approach, would it make sense to derive 1000 elements out of your text body? We can safely say that this would defeat any form of result. Ideally, you may want to derive as many groups or elements as necessary, and as few as possible. It is your task as a researcher to walk this fine line, and make your process transparent and clearly document it. Try to refrain from asking more experienced researchers for too much help, because this defeats the learning process. It is up to you to learn how to code through your own experience of coding.
1. List of documents: Documents can be imported in different formats, e.g. pdf, picture, or website text.
2. Code system: The example shows in-vivo codes from the text. A text segment is directly taken as code. The first one is activated and highlighted in the text.
3. Text browser: All text lines have automatic numbers. Codes are displayed next to the text.
4. Tool bar: All major tools are easily accessible.
MAXQDA offers features to sort data by codes, facilitating easier analysis and interpretation of the data. By activating a code or a document, researchers can focus on specific perspectives, enhancing their targeted exploration and analysis. Activation is a powerful filtering feature that enables researchers to narrow down their analysis and explore specific data segments or categories. In addition, different visual tools can help to visualize and create overviews of connections within their data. It is advisable to save the output in QTT (QTT = Questions-Themes-Theories) format, which is a standardized file format for qualitative data analysis. This compatibility ensures that the data can be easily shared and analyzed using other qualitative analysis software.
Tips & Tricks
- Explore the MAXQDA website and knowledge base for additional resources, tutorials, and support: https://www.maxqda.com
- Don't get overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities and features in MAXQDA. Always focus on the next step while keeping in mind your research question.
- Be aware that different tools do not always link to the same functions afterwards, so consider what you want to do with your codes before creating them.
- Make sure to unterstand the difference between codes and variables (variables can be assigned only once per document while codes can be assigned multiple times)
- Use team collaboration features in order to promote effective teamwork. You can collaborate with other researchers by project sharing and cloud-based exchange. Please check with your institution if a license for these special features is available.
- Always use the latest version of MAXQDA to have access to all functions.
- Consider compatibility issues when switching between Mac and Windows versions. Layout and functions are identical, but some document formats cannot be exchanged between versions.
- Check out the MAXQDA YouTube channel (5) for introductory and advanced information in different languages.
- Attend the annual free online conference called MAXDays (6) for webinars with Q&A and research sessions.
- MAXQDA Grants offers funding for qualitative research, e.g. through free licenses or monetary support. Check out their #ResearchForChange (7) program.
Links & Further Reading
(1) Kuckartz, U. & Rädiker, S. (2019): Analyzing Qualitative Data with MAXQDA: Text, Audio, and Video. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15671-8
(2) Mueller Mixed Methods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so4L_Gr-Wkk
(3) MAXQDA Online Manual: https://www.maxqda.com/de/hilfe-mx22/willkommen
(4) MAXQDA Website: https://www.maxqda.com
(5) MAXQDA Official YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MAXQDAOfficial
(6) MAXDays online conference: https://www.maxqda.com/events/maxdays
(7) MAXQDA grants #ResearchForChange: https://www.maxqda.com/de/stipendien
The authors of this entry are Sabrina Foppe and Dagmar Berg-Moelleken.