Despite all sorts of professional involvement in data mining and knowledge development/management/exploitation, it hasn’t translated well to how I manage my personal files at home. I’ve been collecting primary and secondary research materials for years, but somehow never really used any form of software or tool to manage it all. File folders and file naming conventions, that’s about it. Now that my library of PDFs, Word docs, saved emails and the like has grown to silly proportions, and now that I’ve got the time to focus on my PhD and book projects, the old ways have got to go.
Over the last week, I’ve been researching two types of product: computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) like Atlas, NUDist/NVivo, Ethnograph, and the CDC’s E-Z Text, among others; and bibliographical/reference software like EndNote, Reference Manager, and Sente. The former are much more complex tools, involve a steep learning curve, and feature some interesting possibilities – notably coding functions. The latter are much more basic – I want to say that they lend themselves well to secondary source management, whereas CAQDAS is for primary source exploitation.
Two things come to mind. First, I find myself resisting what feels like a technological trap, ie. locking my data into any particular tool and its capabilities, and in turn find myself favoring something simpler. Export functions can mitigate some of that, so obviously a must-have feature. Second, distinctions between primary and secondary sources are harder to maintain in discourse analysis – so I find myself wanting some of the CAQDAS coding functions in my reference software. Not a show-stopper, but something to think about, especially as I read more on all of this.