Monday 5 December 2011

Improving UCT's support for Qualitative Data Analysis Software use.

Written for current and prospective users of qualitative research software at the University of Cape Town.

My blog's NVivo posts aim to provide an example of the use of a qualitative data analysis software (QDAS)* in a South African (or developing world) academic context. Hopefully by posting on the experiences of using NVivo 9 in completing a PhD and working for the ICT Access and Use project, I can stimulate much needed discussion about how students and staff could (or should) be better supported in their QDAS-use.

There is considerable scope at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to improve its support for student and staff QDAS-use: currently, UCT does not do even one of the four key activities listed by David & Jacobson (2008) for QDAS institutional success as exemplified by the University of Massachusetts Lowell! 

Based on my experiences at UCT, the status of these key activities are:
  1. Software is not readily available - UCT (and its Humanities Faculty) does not have an NVivo site license;
  2. Training is hard to access and costly- my NVivo workshop attendance was self-funded;
  3. There are no user-groups - there is no user group at UCT, such as a "Qualitative Research Software Users Network" for students and staff;
  4. There are no forums for open discussion - UCT has no fora dedicated to fostering discussions on technology and qualitative analysis.
As a result, it is unsuprising that there is; limited decision making support in choosing the most appropriate QDAS software to use, little or no materials on QDAS in the library and no readily accessible online guides by UCT researchers on their QDAS-use.

This does present opportunities for UCT's staff and/or students to take the lead with:
  1. Establishing a UCT QDAS Users group;
  2. Setting up a regular QDAS forum;
  3. Documenting how may researchers are, and intend to, use QDAS software;
  4. Using usage statistics to justify:
  5. investment in training staff and students to teach about QDAS and its use;
  1. - b
  2. uying a site license for UCT.
If you are interested in working with me on these actions, please get in touch or add your feedback in the comment box below. 

* Also more commonly known as Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS).

Davidson, Judith and Jacobs, Cynthia. The Implications of Qualitative Research Software for Doctoral Work: Considering the Individual and Institutional Contexts [online]. Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2008: doi: 10.3316/QRJ0802072.
Availability:<;dn=425496252675286;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 1443-9883. [cited 05 Dec 11].


  1. I work at the Durban University of Technology and the Nvivo software is essential to evaluate my data. The scenario is VERY similar to what you describe. NO workshop, the software I was given ran out and DUT was very slow and reluctant to respond, only with the intervention of my HOD did he finally get the response that they would renew the licence. They said they had one person for each faculty trained in Nvivo, but refused to tell me the name [??!}], even though they pointed out that the idea was that the trained person would train the others....

    All in all it is a VERY frustrating experience and it is only due to my perseverance that I am still using Nvivo....despite all odds...

  2. You may wish to look into HyperRESEARCH QDA software.

    It's easier to use the NVivo and all of our support is free, both before and after you purchase our software.

    We offer lower costs as well, both in our single-license Student and Educational pricing as well as volume discounts for Educational purchases of 5 or more licenses.

    See online webinar replays here:

  3. I just learnt that UCT's Sociology Department; "has an NVivo site license and conducts training workshops for it"! This is typical of the poor inter-departmental communication at UCT and is very frustrating: at the start of this year, I spent hours following up within the Humanities department as to whether an NVivo license was available and if training was offered. At the end, the department's ICT support staff feedback was that NVivo was not on site, so I it was only logical to conclude that no training was offered. As a result I paid to do a workshop in Johannesburg and bought a student license. The former (worthwhile as it was) may have been an avoidable expense!

  4. I am a mature part time post graduate student in Faculty of Architecture and Planning at UCT researching the N2 Gateway in Langa. I have purchased my own licence for NVivo having been told by ICTS that it was not supported at UCT. As far as I can establish there are pockets of NVivo users located in different faculties where a department or research team has purchased a license but that access is restricted to those covered by the particular licence. I am currently using online learning materials provided by NVivo to familiarise myself with the programme and to code interview transcripts and secondary source materials. I would be interested to participate in a QDAS forum. I can be contacted by email


This blog is moderated due to problems experienced by a few readers who could not submit unmoderated comments. Please keep your comment length under 300 words; any longer and you will struggle to submit it. Ta, Travis.

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