Analytic writing during collaborative qualitative analysis.

by | Analysis, Collaboration, Transcription, Writing Tools

I received the following support question this week:

I am thinking about on the asynchronous communication between the users of Transana MU
the chat windows of Transana is only for synchronous communications.
How did you deal with this problem in your past practices?

Here’s my response, which of course can be generalized to other qualitative software that can be used collaboratively. Some of the ideas even apply to individual researchers not working collaboratively.

You’re right. When using Transana’s Multiuser Version for collaborative qualitative analysis, it can be really beneficial to address the question of collaborative communication between members of the research team.

Transana’s Chat Utility allows for synchronous chat, but does not save that chat in any way. It’s great when more than one researcher is working on the data at once, but you should capture the chat stream and copy it into an Analytic Memo or a Research Journal before you exit Transana following such a chat. (More on how to do this in a moment.)

I use Notes, Research Journals and even videos for this purpose. See the Dempster and Woods (2011), particularly around paragraph 31, for a preliminary discussion. Keep in mind that we have added a LOT of capacity to Transana since that was written.

You can set up a Library called “Collaboration Notes”, which should be the first thing research team members should check when starting their analysis for the day and the last thing they should contribute to at the end of their day. Always start the name of the object with the date in YYYYMMDD format so you can see a chronological list of the summaries added by each person.

You can use Library Notes for short-term, special purpose notes. Say one reseacher has a specific question for another, maybe about the data that a second researcher is currently working on or about how that researcher is interpreting one of the shared codes in the analysis. She can create a note called “20170927 Question for Researcher 2 on his coding of Concept X”. She date-time stamps the question by pressing Ctrl-/Cmd-T in the Library Note, and he can answer in the same Note, being sure to start his answer with the a date-time stamp as well.

You can use Documents for building cross-researcher Research Journals. Call one “Daily Progress” or something along those lines. Each researcher, at the end of an analysis session, adds a date-time stamp and records the answers to a few common questions, such as “What did I work on today?” “What insights did I have?” “What am I struggling to understand?” “What questions have come up?”, etc. You can use hyperlinks to Quotes, Clips, Snapshots, and Notes in the Daily Progress journal to help anchor questions and ideas in the specifics of the data. Each researcher can then read about everything that was done with the data between her data sessions. You can have multiple Research Journals, say one for each research question, one for each data collection site, one for each researcher, or whatever. (Recognize, however, that all Research Journals are fully public in Transana, so I’d advise researchers not to write anything they wouldn’t say to all of their colleagues.)

Team members can even record Webcam / Screen Capture videos of questions they have or insights they want to share. You can add these as (untranscribed) Episodes in the Collaboration Notes Library. Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to explain something via video than typing it out. This, of course, assumes the project has a good system in place for sharing media files, using a file sharing system such as Box or DropBox for example. Again, hyperlinks to data objects dropped into the Transcript and time-coded to the relevant part of the discussion in the media file can really help keep the conversation grounded in your data.

This is not only an effective communication strategy (to the extent that colleagues follow through), it leaves a permanent record in the database so you don’t have to recreate an e-mail trail later. This can really help during the writing-up process.

Hope that helps.