Using Computer Software to Analyze Qualitative Data: Accounting versus Other Disciplines
44 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2008
Date Written: August 1, 2008
The aim of this paper is to investigate the use of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS). In order to get insights in its current use and further potential for accounting researchers, we review the accounting literature in comparison to other disciplines until December 2007. Our analysis framework takes into account the diverse functions CAQDAS offers, as well as the extent of analysis activities undertaken through CAQDAS. Related to the CAQDAS functions, researchers can use CAQDAS just for organizing their data ('code and retrieve'), or for undertaking a 'gentle' or 'far-reaching' analysis within the software package (Lee & Fielding 1995, Seale 2005). Related to analysis quality, researchers can give an indication of whether they find CAQDAS important to enhance the 'validity', 'reliability' and/or 'theoretical sophistication' of their work (Silverman 2005). A thorough search through the contents of ten accounting journals identified 26 published articles using CAQDAS before January 2008. Atals/ti, NUDIST-Nvivo and The Ethnograph are used most. A search for academic papers using these packages in three online databases (from their existence until December 2007) led us to identify about 1150 published papers in journals with a JCR impact score. Our initial analysis compares accounting to sociology. We find that accounting researchers make use of CAQDAS to an extensive degree, in a comparable way to what sociology researchers do. Accounting researchers especially mention the advantages of reliability and validity, appearing more apologetic about their use of qualitative data than sociology researchers. Further, the sociology journals seem to streamline more the way in which authors report about their analysis process based on CAQDAS. We conclude that readers could get better insights in the research process when authors clearly and concisely indicate what they actually did with CADQDAS. Apart from the lessons learned by comparing CAQDAS use in accounting to other disciplines, we want to make sure future CAQDAS users embark on software analysis projects with reasonable expectations: how far-reaching (or not) the options offered, CAQDAS cannot provide a substitute for continuing to think critically about the meaning of data.
Keywords: Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS), research method, qualitative data analysis
JEL Classification: M41, C88
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation