Organising and Designing Quantitative Data

Quantitative data

3. Choosing the right tools

3.5 Qualitative Data Analysis software

Examples: NVivo, ATLAS.ti

Historical research is very rarely purely quantitative, and many historians working with textual sources are likely to want to use quantification in some way sooner or later. Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis software (CAQDAS) has been most commonly used by ethnographers and qualitative sociologists, but it can represent a useful alternative to conventional databases for historical research: rather than entering text or numbers extracted from a source document into a table, sections of text in transcribed documents are coded or tagged for categories, meanings, networks, relationships and so on.


  • transcribed documents and structured data are not separated, and no data is lost.
  • it is easier to move between close reading and quantitative analysis
  • the encoded text is an adaptable resource: it can subsequently be used for various kinds of analysis, including export to more sophisticated quantitative analysis tools or databases; or it can be re-coded for later projects with different research questions.


  • marking up texts accurately and consistently may be more time-consuming than conventional data entry, particularly if you are working with already highly-structured documents.
  • there isn't much point if you are not creating/working with transcriptions or all your sources are highly tabular rather than narrative in form!