Upcoming workshop presentation: ‘XVivo: The case for an open source QDAS’

I will be doing a presentation on the need for qualitative researchers to embrace open source software and my work on Pythia as part of the Urban Studies’ Monday workshops at the University of Glasgow on 26th November.


Qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) has the potential to revolutionise both the scale of qualitative research and the array of possible analysis techniques. Yet currently available software still imposes unnecessary limits that hinder and prevent this full potential from being realised. Additionally, it locks data and the analysis performed on it within proprietary file formats that makes the archiving and sharing of research difficult. Due to similar issues, open source solutions have seen increasing popularity in quantitative research, and it is perhaps time that qualitative researchers joined them. This presentation will therefore discuss both the issues of current proprietary QDAS as well as the potential of open source software for qualitative researchers. To do this, the myriad of issues experienced with NVivo by the Welfare Conditionality project will be used to exemplify the problems created by a reliance on expensive, slow, and poorly designed proprietary software. The second half of the presentation will focus on Pythia, an open source QDAS library written in Python I have been working on. Through covering the design philosophy, current progress, and long-term plans the potential of open source will be highlighted for being able to solve problems with current qualitative software, enable new creative analysis techniques, and allow researchers to reclaim control of their data.

The workshops, as far as I am aware, are open to Urban Studies’ staff and PhD students only. However, as usual I will upload a copy of my presentation slides after the event. Additionally, as part of the preparation for the presentation I will be aiming to write a few short blog posts on the design philosophy of Pythia, elaborate further on why there is a need for an open source QDAS, as well as write-ups and screenshots of progress. Unfortunately, development ground to an absolute halt during the eight months where all my spare time, energy, annual leave, mental health, hopes, dreams, and general will to live were sacrificed at the job hunting altar. I now have around 12 months before that hell begins again, so once I have taken care of the journal article writing backlog that also built up during that time the plan is to filter work on Pythia back into my weekly schedule.

Series Intro: Useful apps, services, and software.

This post is an introduction and placeholder for a planned series of posts on useful apps, services, and software. Once there are a few posts in the series I will eventually promote this post to a page with an index of all the posts from the series.

I decided to make a series for this because although using computers has become a key part of academic work, too many academics remain uncomfortable using them. Often I come across people using Word for anything that involves text. Not due to it being the best tool for the job but that they are unaware of the alternatives. Even when someone knows it is not an ideal solution, it is not always easy to find a good entry point to start learning how to use new software. At a training event I attended last year I was sat next to a professor. From the introductions he obviously had years of experience using an advance software package for tasks similar to the software the training was on. Yet, it became clear from the start that he was uneasy and disorientated when facing a new application with an unfamiliar interface. After accidentally launching another application and then opening the wrong file, that resulted in a garbled mess of symbols appearing on the screen, he got up and left only ten minutes into the session. While it is rare for someone to feel so at a loss that they leave, I have heard multiple times from PhD students that despite feeling like walking out they have persisted through a training session and still come away not feeling any more confident in knowing how to use the software. Such experiences end up reinforcing self perceptions of not being ‘a computer person’.

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