Writing Tools in Transana

There are two important ways I use Transana Professional’s writing tools when I am doing qualitative analysis.  Creating Progress Logs.  These are useful in tracking what I’ve done and where I’m headed.  In Transana Multiuser they are also great for asynchronous collaboration, and tracking who has done what.  Qualitative Writing.  I find it very useful to start my analytic writing in the analytic environment where I can stay fully immersed in my data.   (The writing tools described here are not included in Transana Basic.)

Creating Progress Logs

The first three things I do when starting a new data analysis are:

1) create my database

2) set my Media Library directory

3) create a Library for my progress log, analytic notes, and writing. 

I usually create a library called “Research Journals,” although you can of course call it anything you’d like.  I then add a Document I called “Progress Notes.” Every time I sit down at Transana, I open Progress Notes, add a Date and Time stamp, and write a quick note about what I am working on today.  I’ll add insights I have as I work and questions that come up that I want to look into at another time.  If I am part of a large research team using Transana Multiuser, one of our collaboration norms is that every interaction with the data should be begin with reading the Progress Notes added since you were last working, and end with a description of today’s work for others to read.  This way, the lead investigators, and everyone else on the team, can see who is working on what, can easily keep track of the progress of the analytic team, and can find out what different team members are seeing in the data right within Transana. 

Many entries in Progress Notes are mundane;  “Today, I transcribed MSN426,”  “I added 15 new videos to the database from the last week in March,” “I added a new Collection called ‘X’ today to reflect a new theme I’m seeing recently,” and so on.  But other times, I’ll record thoughts, hypotheses, insights, and questions I don’t want to lose track of; “MSN426 had some interesting comments about ‘Y.’  Are there more example of this?”  In collaborative analysis, this can be an excellent way to conduct, track, and document collaboration as well; “I see you coded Clip (hyperlink to the clip) as ‘Z.’  When I look at it, I see it as an example of ‘Y’ instead.  What do the rest of you think?  Let’s talk about it on Tuesday.”  This, of course, would be followed by an entry on Tuesday that describes the results of our conversation.

In some cases, I’ll create a separate document in Research Journals for such discussions.  For example, I am currently working closely with a student on one question from a larger interview, and it’s easier for the whole team if our in-depth conversation is kept in a thread of its own.  This sort of asynchronous, written collaborative conversation has been particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prevented us from being able to overlap in the office and made regular face-to-face conversation impossible. 

Having a permanent record of the conversation has many benefits.  Written communication is clear, organized, permanent, and an established norm.

Qualitative Writing

When I’m in the in initial stage of pulling together an article based on my qualitative research, I start my writing up within Transana, where I have ready access to my analytic data.  During this process, I can embed reminders to myself of important elements of my data that have led to particular insights, or that I want to highlightI usually begin my qualitative write-ups in my Research Journals Library, although if I anticipate creating several articles from my analysis, I sometimes create separate libraries.  I usually create a document called “3 Methodology” where I write my first draft of a new article’s Methodology section, ready for revision by my colleagues.  I also create a document called “4 Results” which starts as an outline of what I plan to write as my analysis comes together. 

I fill in the details, replacing outline bullet points with actual paragraphs and adding juicy quotes as I find them.  Each quotation I add to the write-up includes a hyperlink to the Quote or Clip in Transana it is taken from, making it easy to check the accuracy of the transcription, to confirm the tone in video to ensure the quotation means exactly what I think, to allow my colleagues to check the context of each of my quotations should the need arise, and most of all, to keep me fully immersed in my original data even during the final writing-up stages of the analysis.  Most paragraphs include hyperlinks to the analytic memos (recorded as Notes in Transana) where the team’s analytic insights were documented as they emerged during the analytic process.  These links can be particularly helpful during collaborative writing, especially in the early stages, to help everyone see where ideas came from and where the article might be headed.  And of course, a review of Progress Notes is an essential step in putting this document together.  For my most current write-up, I have even created a graph in Excel to capture a particular insight, saved it as a JPEG image, and imported it into the write-up within Transana to serve as a place-holder for our eventual Figure 2.

When it comes time to move my writing to a traditional word processing program, I will lose my hyperlinks (which only work within Transana), but I will gain the ability to circulate drafts to colleagues who are not connected to my Transana database, and add necessary elements including headers, footers and citation management.  But I do find the transition from evidence gathering and note taking to writing to go much more smoothly when I can continue to be fully immersed in and connected to my data.