Written by Dave Fearon and Harshil Desai

What is QDA Software? 

Researchers today are increasingly making use of computers for qualitative data analysis software (QDAS), especially with digital media files. Two major commercial QDAS products, NVivo & ATLAS.ti, are the most widely used applications and feature a wide range of qualitative methodological techniques. These products are well established and were initially released in 1997 and 1993 respectively.  Other popular applications include MAXQDA and cloud-based Dedoose 

NVivo, produced by QSR International, is used for qualitative and mixed-methods research. Here are several features of NVivo:  

  • Analyze and organize unstructured text, audio, video, or image data with coding, tagging, and annotations that can be queried, filtered, and interrelated. These are key requirements for grounded theorysociolinguistics, and other iterative methods. 
  • Playback ability for audio and video files, facilitating transcription and coding. 
  • Capture social media data using the NCapture browser plug-in. 
  • Social network analysis features on the NVivo Pro Plus version.  
  • Import notes and captures from Evernote, useful for field research. 
  • Import citations from EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, or other bibliographic management software to manage literature reviews. ¹ 

ATLAS.ti is a commercial application that shares many of NVivo’s main capacities for coding and qualitative analysis of textual, graphical, audio and video data, but also offers a dedicated mobile app, useful for collecting data in the field. 

In today’s research environments, collaboration is essential for tackling problems. NVivo and ATLAS.ti offer cloud options where teams can share data, expertise, and insights. Check out NVivo Collaboration Cloud and ATLAS.ti Cloud 

Both ATLAS.ti and NVivo offer trial versions and reasonable student pricing if you are working on a larger project. For quick projects or evaluating the software, both programs are installed at the JHU Eisenhower Library A-level on the Data Services workstations. NVivo can also be accessed freely using an institutional account via the JHU SAFE Desktop.  SAFE Desktop (Secure Analytic Framework Environment) is a HIPAA-compliant?data storage and analysis environment, managed by IT@JH.  By keeping both data and applications in the secure cloud, SAFE Desktop is the recommended platform for working with PHI/PII?or sensitive data, including audio/video and detailed text common to qualitative analysis. Only faculty and research staff can apply for SAFE Desktop accounts, but they can sponsor student access to group projects.  Note that the NVivo installed on SAFE Desktop is not the collaborative version, so groups must open a project one at a time or merge individual projects. There is currently no institutional account or access for ATLAS.ti.

JHU Data Services has an online guide with overview and resource links for using QDA software. Contact us for assistance with access to NVivo and ATLAS.ti at the Data Services offices on A-level, JHU Eisenhower Library. Visit our website for more info and our upcoming training workshops 


  1. “Statistical & Qualitative Data Analysis Software: About NVivo.” LibGuides, 29 Sept. 2021, https://libguides.library.kent.edu/statconsulting/NVivo.