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QDA Software: Frequently Asked Questions

On this page, we’ve collected some of the common questions about QDA software. Please don’t hesitate to contact Christian if you have additional questions!

What’s the best QDA software?

There is no best software – only the software that fits your data and your needs as an analyst. When you are shopping around for a program, keep in mind what kind of data you want to analyze primarily (e.g. qualitative short text surveys, transcribed interview data, raw or multiple-transcript video data etc), and how much data you actually have. For smaller projects, freeware or lower cost software is often sufficient. You should familiarize yourself with how the software displays your data and how the data can be exported. After this, you should assess whether the software affords to work with your preferred work style and methodology workflow (see question below). For some hints on choosing a QDA package, see our online guide here.

Does software do analysis for me?

QDA software is not capable of qualitative analysis. The software is a tool for organizing your data, for organizing your analytic work (for example your memos) closely to the data, and it is a tool for writing & engaging with data.

Which software fits best to which method?

There is no straightforward answer to this, unfortunately. Using QDA software means that you almost always have to ‘bend’ the software to your methodological workflows. That being said, most commercial programs give you versatile tools to bring your method to life in the software. It’s important to keep in mind that using QDA software is no substitute for deep methodological knowledge. QDA software does not analyze your data, and it also does not give you some sort of intro into a specific method.

Is there any software that I can use for free via UW-Madison?


SSCC (Social Science Computing Cooperative) offers the use of NVIVO and ATLAS.TI via Winstat. Members of the School of Education need to sign up for a Winstat account. More information on accessing SSCC’s services can be found here.

To be eligible for an SSCC account outside of the School of Education, members of UW-Madison need to be either graduate students in a department in the divisions of Social Sciences or Arts and Humanities in L&S, or students enrolled in a course in one of said divisions (this will only grant access during the semester in which they are enrolled), or they need to be affiliates of one of SSCC’s member organizations (

We do not recommend to use QDA software via Winstat for long-term projects, since both both Atlas.TI and NVIVO will run sluggishly via the web application. If you are planning on using NVIVO or Atlas.TI on a regular basis, we recommend purchasing the programs.


WCER (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) offers access to NVIVO Server to researchers who have their research hosted at WCER. WCER also supports NVIVO users if they access Nvivo via SSCC. It is important to mention that NVIVO Server (via WCER) differs from NVIVO (via SSCC). NVIVO Server is a cloud based service, hosted at WCER, which allows users to simultaneously work on project files. This functionality is not available with the basic version of NVIVO.

What’s the pricing for software?

Pricing ranges from around 40 USD to 600 USD, and there are freeware solutions available. Please keep in mind that freeware solutions may be fitted to more specific methodological approaches, and they may be made for dealing with a smaller amount of data (e.g. 10-20 interview transcripts). For commercial software, pricing is often divided into tiers for education, commercial use, lab use and student licenses. Some software licenses are also for lease (e.g. they are valid for a month, a semester, or a year).

The list of programs below is not exhaustive. Pricing is rounded and subject to change. Most programs have more pricing options – please refer to their websites for more information.

Educational Pricing Student Pricing
NVIVO  670 USD (educational) 120 USD (expires after 12 months)
MAXQDA  570 USD (educational) 135 USD / 50 USD for 6-month license
ATLAS.TI  670 USD (educational) 100 USD (expires after 24 months)
HyperResearch  500 USD (educational) 200 USD
Transana  350 USD (‘professional’) / 75 (‘standard’) n/a
Dedoose  11 USD/month + add. fees for audio/video data n/a
F4analyse  70 USD (‘professional’ / 35 USD (‘standard’) n/a
TAMS Analyzer  free free

What packages are out there for MACs?

In the past year, all major software providers have launched MAC versions of their programs. Only few programs run natively on Linux. Please note that the list of programs below is not exhaustive.

HyperResearch MAC & Win
Transana MAC & Win
Dedoose MAC & Win (browser-based)
F4analyse MAC, Win, Linux
TAMS Analyzer MAC, Linux

[important]Please note that the MAC & WIN versions of both NVIVO and MAXQDA are not compatible. If your team uses both MAC and WIN machines, this will make sharing and merging work more complicated. Please also note that the NVIVO SERVER version is not compatible with NVIVO for MAC. If you or your team members want to access NVIVO SERVER projects, they must use the Windows version. Lastly, not all functions of NVIVO are available in the MAC version at this time. Please refer to this list for an overview of functions on MAC. [/important]

How and where can I test some software?

Most commercial packages offer 30-day trials. In this time period, you can use the full program to test it. MERIT Library has also created a Software Exploration Station, which is located on the 3rd floor in the Teacher Education Building. It has pre-installed a variety of programs for you to try out and will also feature some interactive tutorials soon.

Where can I find more information?

You will find information & guides on this website, and you can contact our Qualitative Research Data Consultant. In addition, you can join the UW NVIVO user listserv, and the QDA software listserv to get into contact with other software users on campus. Click here to sign up for the listservs.

Additionally, you should also check out the CAQDAS Networking project site. The site features extensive reviews of different packages, a large bibliography, and various guides that will help you during various stages of choosing, and using QDA software.