Academic Consulting Blog


Data analysis mistakes to avoid

It’s the little things that count in life, and this is very much the case with data analysis, where failing to pay attention to small details can result in quite large problems!

Using pseudonyms – what’s in a name?

Given that confidentiality and anonymity are paramount in the research work we do, pseudonyms in qualitative research are an important consideration, and I’m often asked about these at my NVivo training courses...

Top 5 reasons to use NVivo

I’m often asked if software such as NVivo should be used for qualitative data analysis. For me this is an easy choice, as I’ve used what I’ll refer to as ‘pen and paper’ methods previously, and wouldn’t want to return to them. However, there are some who would disagree with me...

TED Talks for researchers

The end of winter feels like it’s dragging on this year, and I’ve been feeling a little uninspired as a result. One of the things I love about research is that it involves building on the experiences and knowledge of others. So when I need a burst of inspiration, it’s probably not surprising that I hunt around the Ted Talks archive for some insight from other researchers. If you’re in need of some inspiration yourself, here’s what I’ve been watching…

Reflections on a recent qualitative project...

Having just finished analysing and writing up some really interesting interview and focus group data, I thought I’d stop and reflect on some of the things I learned (or was reminded of) from this recent project. One of the things I love about research is that it doesn’t matter how experienced you are as a researcher, each project teaches you something new.

Lyn’s favourite things: Time management strategies

Following on from my last ‘Favourite Things’ post on keeping organised, this month I’m covering tips for maximising my time. I’m a big fan of making the most of the time I have as it means I have more time to spend on the things I enjoy. Here are my three favourite strategies for doing just that.

Tips for online training

Following on from my last ‘Favourite Things’ post on keeping organised, this month I’m covering tips for maximising my time. I’m a big fan of making the most of the time I have as it means I have more time to spend on the things I enjoy. Here are my three favourite strategies for doing just that.

Lyn’s favourite things: Keeping organised

In case anyone missed our recent research webinar series, I thought I’d do a rundown of my favourite tips, starting out with what I use to stay on top of the huge pile of information, ideas, literature, and data that comes my way. I think I sometimes give the impression that I’m a seriously organised and efficient person, but my colleagues will attest to the fact that being organised isn't something that comes naturally to me – I definitely have to work at it, and these are the things in my research toolkit that assist with this.

What exactly is "online training"?

There’s a growing trend towards training courses being offered in online formats. Here at Academic Consulting, we prefer face-to-face training (we like to see your smiling faces!), but the reality is that busy researchers often don’t have the time to attend face-to-face courses.

NVivo coding tips and tricks

We’ve used NVivo extensively for coding over the years and have discovered a number of tips and tricks that we’d like to share. We’re not suggesting that these are the “right” way to code (we don’t believe there is such a thing), but we’ve certainly found that we’ve saved ourselves some time, not to mention headaches, by following the suggestions below!

What's a masterclass?

I’ve been pondering the meaning of the term ‘masterclass’. I began thinking about this last November when I caught up with some of my fellow NVivo trainers in Melbourne. One of them had enrolled in a survey masterclass and was rather annoyed to find that it was introductory level. At the time I had just scheduled some masterclasses for our own training programme, so I was left wondering whether I had appropriately described these!

Writing up qualitative research

While preparing for one of our Writing up Qualitative Research workshops recently, I began to reminisce about my early research career and the process of writing reports back in the early 90s (yep, that long ago!). These were the days when I had to share a computer with the other junior researcher in the organisation – we mainly hand wrote our reports and passed them over to production staff who would type them up for us. Our manager would then make significant edits via red pen slashes across the page, the material would be sent back to the production team, and so the process would go. Thankfully, technology and work practices have moved on, but it did remind me of the sweat and tears I used to go through to draft a report. I also remember that, while I struggled with writing for a number of years, all of a sudden something just seemed to ‘click’ and it has actually now become one of my favourite stages of the research process.

Why I love Zotero

I was an early adopter of EndNote – I hate to show my age, but I started using it when Endnote 2 was around. I was a pretty big fan for years – I think I must have facilitated several hundred EndNote training courses when I worked at The University of Auckland, and I certainly used it for both my master's and PhD theses. Somewhere around EndNote 9 I started to lose enthusiasm due to the combination of technical glitches and seeing so many students use it badly (not a reflection on the students involved, it just wasn’t particularly intuitive). On the hunt for a possible replacement I stumbled across Zotero – I still remember how excited I was the day I discovered it (which makes me wonder if I need to get out more!).

Developing a coding framework with NVivo maps

I’ve been busy coding survey data in NVivo recently – if you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed me tweeting some #nvivotips as I code. The data relates to students’ experience in an online learning environment. When I started developing the coding framework for it, I started out with what Pat Bazeley refers to the ‘scribble and doodle’ method – I like this approach when it’s a small dataset that I’m working with. If you haven’t come across the technique – it’s nothing fancy – it’s literally making notes and scribbles on a hard copy of the data. I’ve included a photo, just to prove it’s not complicated (in case you think your vision has gone blurry, the actual data is blanked out for confidentiality).

So I’ve done my coding in NVivo … Now what?

A common problem researchers face when they’ve completed their initial coding in NVivo is knowing what to do next. They know they eventually need to start writing, but they’re not sure how to get there from their coded nodes. If this applies to you, read on for some tips on moving forward at this stage of the analysis process – some of these are NVivo specific but others require a bit of old-fashioned brain work! For those of you that learn better by seeing things in action and being able to ask questions, we’ve also included links to some of our related upcoming online training courses.

Confessions of a thesis writer: Formatting faux pas

I have a confession to make – I didn’t use styles and templates in Microsoft Word when I wrote my Master’s thesis. Those of you who know me will be surprised to hear this as I’m an ardent promoter of them now. It wasn’t that I didn’t think they would be helpful – I simply just wasn’t aware that they were a possibility.

Transcription tips and tricks

As researchers, we know that transcribing can be an arduous and challenging task! While some of you may be contracting this work out to professional transcribers, many researchers and students will undertake their own transcription. This may be due to a lack of budget, or because of the benefits it can provide in terms of increased familiarity with your data. Indeed, listening and re-listening to audio recordings can mean that you discern additional insights from what your participants say, and how they say it. If you’re in a position where you’re transcribing your own data, don’t view it as a negative – it can be incredibly valuable. To help you out, here’s some lessons we’ve learned over the years – we hope you find them useful.

Using NVivo for literature reviews

Those of you who have attended any of my recent NVivo training will be aware that I’m a huge fan of using NVivo for literature reviews. I also love the fact that as soon as I mention it to other researchers, I can see their eyes light up with the possibilities that the software has to offer. It’s easy to understand why researchers are making the connection between NVivo and literature reviews. The processes involved are very similar to those involved in qualitative data analysis. In both, we read and reflect on text, make comments, identify key themes, look for great quotes, identify contradictions, and so on.