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The subject of my dissertation is Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS). These packages are important tools to support researchers in universities, research institutions and companies, but their use is criticized and not so widespread. Traditionally, while cataloguing, analysing and writing results, a manual method has been used: underlining, markers, scissors, involving every kind of problem which is related to working on large amounts of paper. Later, the spreading of personal computers and the first text editors eased some of these processes. CADQAS is a more powerful tool, compared to a traditional text editor: it is possible to work on a «project» which digitally contains all data. Into this project it is possibile to catalogue all the research's material, to easily assign labels in text parts which are considered relevant, to link other parts of text, etc. It is important to remark that many researchers argue that using computer to interpretate data implies more transparency and traceability, avoiding the risk of bias in the explanation construction or testing a theory.
From these starting points, my research deals with a general overview from literature, about CAQDAS, trying to understand its role, explaining the phases of its development, and analysing its strengths and weaknesses. Then I analyse the practical possibilities of the three most widespread software available at the moment, ATLAS.ti, MAXqda and NVivo, including a short review of the software programmes that are still up to date. This is important to understand the reasons for choosing a particular software or another one, and even if choosing not to use any of them. Subsequently I investigate the ways in which computer assisted research is carried out by researchers and professors of the University of Trento and others Italian universities. I interviewed several researchers and I also taught how to use a software (ATLAS.ti) to a group of students to investigate their opinion. This is relevant to understand the problems encountered, to record the demands and to observe the ways in which software is experienced. Secondly is also important to consider qualitative researchers who don't utilise software for their researches, and why. Finally I deal with the potential development of CAQDAS, such as open source and web-based packages. A particular remark will involve the QDA-UniTN Project (open source, multiplatform, in real-time collaborative and web-based). in which I collaborated to write the feasibility study. It involves a team of Sociology and Computer Science students. The project is supposed to care more about the researchers' demands, considering at first the user-friendly issue. It is also supposed to be collaborative, helping in this way the transparency of the research process.