Basic vs advanced CAQDAS features?

Part one of a series of posts in dialogue with Christina.

There are no basic or advanced #CAQDAS features, but straightforward or more sophisticated uses of tools appropriate for different tasks

— Christina Silver (@Christina_QDAS) April 27, 2017

This tweet got me thinking a LOT about the ideas it  – it’s a tweet so it’s trying to distill a complex argument down into a pithy soundbite. However something about it doesn’t sit quite right with me. This blog post is an attempt to start working out some of those questions and hopefully do so in a space with sufficient space (rather than twitter character limits) to engage in dialogue but also work out the issues at some length.

I want to try and break it down into it’s key aspects the engage with each:

There are no basic or advanced #CAQDAS features

CAQDAS = Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software

Basic vs Advanced features = not only a false dichotomy but something that doesn’t exist

Instead there’s a new dichotomy proposed of:

Straightforward vs sophisticated uses of tools.

And the straightforwardness or sophistication is to be judged in terms of their “appropriateness for different tasks”.

My key questions therefore are:

  1. On what grounds is the basic vs advanced rejected? Is there alternative evidence to assert this might not be such an easy rejection to defend. (Spoiler: Lots IMHO)
  2. The more complex exploration of how would a judgement of appropriateness be based for considering if you are doing “straightforward” or “more sophisticated” use of tools, and how would those tasks be determined in a way that to me at least reads as being independent of, preceding or separable from the tools?

Fundamentally, I see this as a question of the distribution of agency between

  1. manufacturers and designers of tools,
  2. the tools,
  3. the tasks that can be done, and
  4. the users.

I interpret this formulation as being one that sees or proposes that the agency is (or should be) primarily with the users. Which I further interpret as proposing a new way to (re)configure the user – to draw on Grint and Woolgar’s (1997) conceptualisations.


I’m VERY pleased to say that Christina has responded to this post to expand those ideas substantially over at in response to this post. So I shall compose further responses in other linked posts.


On considering and defining basic vs advanced tools – which is pretty minimal but proposes possibel criteria.

And a much more extended consideration of the distribution of agency and relationships between tools, potentials, strategies and tactics.