Sunday, November 25, 2007

New words

I was reading an article this afternoon and came across several words with which I was unfamiliar so (of course) I looked them up. They're pretty fun words so I thought I'd share them. I must admit I'm not sure when one would ever use them, the author whose article I was reading could easily have used more familiar words and I confess that I mentally accused him of using $10 words just to make himself sound more intelligent (or something). Here they are (with help from Webster's):


Main Entry:
per·spic·u·ous Listen to the pronunciation of perspicuous
Latin perspicuus transparent, perspicuous, from perspicere

: plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation

Main Entry:
op·pro·bri·um Listen to the pronunciation of opprobrium
Latin, from opprobrare to reproach, from ob in the way of + probrum reproach; akin to Latin pro forward and to Latin ferre to carry, bring — more at ob-, for, bear
1: something that brings disgrace2 a: public disgrace or ill fame that follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious b: contempt, reproach

Main Entry:
de·fea·sance Listen to the pronunciation of defeasance
Middle English defesance, from Anglo-French, from defesaunt, present participle of defaire
15th century
1 a (1): the termination of a property interest in accordance with stipulated conditions (as in a deed) (2): an instrument stating such conditions of limitation b: a rendering null or void2: defeat, overthrow

NVivo7 Test Drive Report #5

This is a short one. It just occurred to me that one of the big assumptions that NVivo makes is that all of your documents will be digital. But that might not be the case especially with historical research (diaries, photos, etc.). I wonder how they account for non-digital data? Must explore.

Friday, November 23, 2007

NVivo7 Test Drive Report #4

Preliminary conclusions.

I've been writing these first entries as an class assignment and while I have 26 more days in my trial of the software and plan to continue using it to analyze my usability data and report my experiences here (after I finish my other class assignments), I did have to complete and turn in the assignment I was originally writing for. This is the conclusion that I wrote for that assignment.

Several very useful points became clear as I worked with the NVivo7 trial. I began to find a number of things in my data that I did not expect to find, for instance, there are a number of behaviors evident among our users that, now that I am aware of them, will affect the way I teach library instruction. That is useful in itself but in terms of conducting qualitative research, I also see that there is a fine line that every researcher has to draw for him or herself between relevant findings and irrelevant findings. Where to draw that line would depend on the research question, the type of research design, the theoretical framework of the project and the theoretical orientation of the researcher.

My frame of mind is important to the quality of the results. It does not do much good to rush through data anlaysis. When I’m in a hurry (e.g. under a deadline to finish an analysis), I am at my least analytical and am least liable to go test an idea and am most liable to miss something in the data. Also, I tend toward linearity by nature. In this analysis of my usability data (which I started at the beginning of this semester and after all of my data collection was complete), I wanted to conduct the analysis participant by participant and then task by task rather than having to go back to participants whose transcripts I had already coded to look at them again. Both of these habits are things that I understand I will need to guard against as I continue to conduct qualitative research.

As far as the product, NVivo7 goes, it seems to me to be the most flexible and therefore useful of the QDA programs I have tested this semester. My “likes” lists outweighed my “dislikes” lists and it seems to combine most of the features that I found useful in all of the QDA programs I have tested. It seems to be intuitive enough for a novice researcher to grasp and begin using without to steep a learning curve but it also has some more advanced linking, memoing, querying, and modeling features that will satisfy a more sophisticated researcher.

The biggest drawback is the inability to code data in any format other than text (although I understand that this has been addressed in the next version). Another is that NVivo7, like most of the other QDA programs I have worked with this semester, seems oriented toward grounded theory research. I can think of two reasons why this might be so; first, because grounded theory is more systematic (at least Strauss & Corbin’s version of it) that other qualitative approaches and it is easier to develop computer programs that support this kind of thinking. But second, it may be the context of my perception that makes it seem so, given my inexperience with qualitative research the more systematic approaches like grounded theory would be easier for me to grasp and to find evidence of and uses for in the software.

NVivo7 Test Drive Report #3


One thing that is different about how I’m coding my usability transcripts is that when I was watching the video recording as I was listening to and reading the transcript, I tended to group segments by task. I was thinking that, after I had coded them all, I would go back and compare each task. That doesn’t seem to be uppermost in my mind as I analyze and code in NVivo7 even though I’m using codes I created while I watching the video recording as I was listening to and reading the transcript.

I downloaded a trial copy of Camtasia with which I created an “external” for and played back as I analyzed the second transcript/video with NVivo. That helped a lot to continue my analysis of how our participants moved around the screen and from page to page. However the whole thing would be more useful for analyzing this kind of data if the video were built in to NVivo itself. I’ll be interested to see how that works in NVivo8.


The Getting Started Guide wasn’t much help to me for learning about constructing and conducting queries so I watched the online tutorial. It gave me a lot of ideas about queries I could make of my data, as little as there is. I tried queries by node and word frequency and matrix queries. Matrix queries were my favorites because I could really begin to see how patterns might be emerging from my data (I was looking for correspondence between those participants who tended to browse the links clicking on those with which they were unfamiliar or not recognizing a term or label and those participants who opened up a particular page that we have labeled “Remote Access” because a high correspondence might indicate that we need to re-name that page with a more meaningful term).

- being able to create a query and then re-run it as you continue to add data
- being able to save the whole project and move with it from one computer to another

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NVivo7 Test Drive Report #2

November 20, 2007 – Creating my ‘project’

I followed the step-by-step instructions in the Getting Started guide for setting up a new project. As I worked through the steps, I noted some things I liked and disliked about NVivo7:

- You can use regular Word files (.doc) or even text files (.txt) instead of having to convert everything to Rich Text files (.rtf), although .rtf files are acceptable. This is not really a very big deal I suppose but always felt cumbersome to me when working with other QDA software (e.g. MaxQDA and Transana).
- The ability to import multiple documents at once rather than having to select and import them one at a time.

- You can’t use punctuation in naming nodes, e.g. I wanted to name a node “everything ought to be together” including the quotation marks because I was quoting a participant.
- (this one started out as a like) There doesn’t appear to be a limit to the length of description that one can give to nodes like there is in Transana…whoops! I was wrong
- No spell check
- While coding I can only look at a list of EITHER my free nodes or my tree nodes but not both at once, that’s awkward
- The little window that opens up every 15 minutes to remind you to save your work in annoying, wonder if there’s a way to change that setting to auto-save without asking me…there is! I found it by using Help but it was exactly where I would have expected it to be had I been thinking more clearly about the similarities between NVivo7 and Outlook.

I used the online help screens to find out how to add attributes to cases after reading that this was possible in the Quick Start Guide. I decided to identify each of my participants as a case since we had collected data describing characteristics like age, gender, perceived computer skills, internet use, library web site use, academic status, major, etc. I created attributes for each piece of data we collected.

Next, I added some tree nodes and free nodes based on codes I had already created and been using with this data in another piece of QDA software. One of the things I’m hoping to find out is whether one can create a tree node at a higher level of a hierarchy and then assign existing, hierarchically lower nodes to the new hierarchically higher level node.

I read through one entire transcript and coded it. During the process I created some new codes. These transcripts accompany a video recording of the screen of the workstation on which the participant is completing tasks. This is the first time I’ve analyzed a transcript without simultaneously watching the video recording of the sequence of pages visited. It’s a different experience focusing completely on the text. I can’t tell yet whether I’ll get more or less or just different results doing it this way.

NVivo7 Test Drive Report #1

It HAS been a while since I posted anything here. Between hiring a new employee at work and catching some kind of flu bug in October that I've just now gotten rid of I haven't had time to post. However, I'm working on an assignment for my Advanced Qualitative Research Methods class that I thought might be interesting and/or useful. The assignment is to try out a qualitative data analysis software called NVivo7. We were required to either try it out in the qualitative computer laboratory on campus (at TWU) or download a trial version of the software to our personal computers.

Being roughly 400 miles from campus and the Qual Lab, I chose to download a trial version of QSR’s NVivo7 qualitative data analysis software. I was excited and looking forward to testing it after Mary Helen Thompson’s presentation in our October class meeting so it is probably easy to imagine my disappointment when the software did not work properly when I downloaded it. Frankly, had the assignment not specifically called for the use of this particular software, I probably would have given up at this stage and not pursued a fix both because of the limited amount of time have for this assignment and because of previous, unsuccessful, frustrating encounters with technical support personell.

However, after two unsuccessful attempts to download, install, and use the trial version of the software, I reluctantly emailed their technical support staff. I was pleasantly surprised (and not a little astonished) to received a timely, helpful response. Unfortunately, the fix they suggested did not work. On my own initiative, I uninstalled and reinstalled the software, this time noting the error messages that appeared as the installation progressed (which I evidently ignored during the first install). I replied to the technical support staff’s email explaining what I’d done and why and what had been the result. In return, I received another pleasant, clearly articulated, helpful email that walked me step-by-step through uninstalling the component software (required for running NVivo but not created or published by QSR) including things to watch out and test for. I followed the directions exactly and am now to give NVivo7 a test on several of the transcripts taken from recordings of the usability test sessions we conducted on our newly designed library web site this summer.

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