Why I Chose MAXQDA

I was recently asked about my experiences using the computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) application, MAXQDA. that I used for my most recent research project while engaging in my doctoral studies at Lancaster University,

I did not initially find this software particularly easy to use, but that is not an uncommon experience as I often find most new software easy to use (I even needed support with my new Mac on more than one occasion). I got the hang of it rather quickly, and now cannot envision coding by hand any longer. I am even starting to think I can use the software to manage a literature review I have coming up . . .

What I found helpful was the way I could assign codes to pieces of text, change the wording as needed, assign multiple codes, and then view those codes across participants, making the codes and participants visible on and off as needed, to begin to see similarities (and in turn beginning the process again). I was amazed at how this helped the process of bringing meaning out of the raw data. When I have previously done this with notes in margins, or colored highlights in Word, it became a challenge to remain consistent or even to be able to manage. Making changes were then nearly out of the question.

I recall a previous module paper where I had 8 interviewees, each one 20-24 pages in length of transcribed text. I was overwhelmed with so much information, and found the lack of an easy way to navigate and manage the raw text, much less the meaning I brought to it, a hindrance to the research process itself. I decided I would not allow that to happen again, and began exploring the various CAQDAS applications. Of the various options out there, I liked MAXQDA’s colorful user interface, the commitment of their support, how they attend and support a large qualitative conference I attend, and how the student costs are very reasonable, certainly compared to the other options. I now plan to reanalyze the data from that last project using MAXQDA, and am already beginning to speculate what different and potentially richer findings await . . .

I have thought about using one of these applications several times over the years, and decided I just have to get serious about it and make the change; good decision.

9 thoughts on “Why I Chose MAXQDA

  1. Thanks for posting your blog on MAXQDA as it was both encouraging and informative for this soon to be first time user. I am an online doctoral student who has decided to use MAXQDA instead of NIVO 8. This will be my first experience using any CAQDAS, and if you could respond to any possible obstacles or pitfalls I may encounter using MAXQDA, I would be enormously appreciative. My phenomenological-heuristic study consists of nine study participants in six focus group sessions. Other than getting the final approval for my proposal from the IRB, my biggest obstacle to date has been transcribing the data as I work full time and had to find someone willing to do the job for a reasonable fee.


    1. Yes, the transcription is a challenge, especially if you want to get it right.

      I love MaxQDA, and while I only use a small portion of the program, what it does for me is tremendous. I suggest printing their manual and watching their online tutorials, all of which are quite to the point. There was something I did struggle with and needed their tech support, and they were wonderful. Solidly recommend them (and I now even use it on a Mac!!).


  2. I dare you to try Dedoose. It’s free for a month, pay as you use after that, intuitive, web-based, cross-platform, collaborative, allows full import and export of all data, and was designed by Drs. Thomas Weisner and Eli Lieber of UCLA to address our issues with MaxQDA and NVivo. Give it it a shot, it will blow your socks off!

  3. @JTtheGeek-

    Thanks for the comment. No, I have not seen Dedoose before. Seems like an interesting program. Wish they had a compare / contrast marketing chart to show how they compare it to MAXQDA or Atlas or Invivo; that would help new users determine if this would meet their needs or not.

    Wonder if that is in the pipeline?


  4. Hi Jeffrey,

    I know you through methodspace.com, and I was so excited to find this blog post. I am to start data collection soon and I have recently started exploring my options regarding the use of a CAQDAS. After looking into several programs, I am leaning towards MAXQDA. I find it more user-friendly and less complicated than its competition. I too work with a Mac and hope MAXQDA will run smoothly on my machine. I have a couple of questions:

    1. Which virtualization software package have you used to install MAXQDA on your Mac? How has your experience been so far? A friend recommended VirtualBox, which is a free application.

    2. You mentioned MAXQDA supporting a large qualitative conference. Could you please elaborate on this? I could not find any information on their website.


    1. Ahmad, wishing you all the best for your upcoming research!

      Let me try a response:

      1. I use the most current version of Parallels running Windows 7. I find that all together they work very smoothly. I have grown to really dislike Windows apps, and while I do not like to give them any money, I also know that Windows things are so complicated that I do not want to trust my work to hoping things work well together–thus, I paid for it. These apps work very well together, and in fact they are so smooth at times I forget I am using them all on a Mac as it becomes nearly transparent with how they play nice together. BTW, I find MAXQDA colors and the interface friendly and current. Given how complicated analysis can be, this really helps.

      2. They regularly attend and support the Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and are listed here http://www.icqi.org/sponsor.html – not sure why they do not promote this on their own website.

      Hope this helps!


  5. Many thanks, Jeffrey. Much appreciated.

    I look forward to using MAXQDA for my analysis … hopefully soon.

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