Managing data

Data management is increasingly becoming an issue for researchers. This is partly related to the vast amounts of data that can now be accessed. The increased accessibility to digital data has resulted in a need to develop strategies to mine and to manage data.

Using Computer Software to help manage and analyse data

Because you are likely to have to manage large amounts of data for your research, it may be useful to consider using software to help manage data. Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis is referred to as CAQDAS. Available products and their capabilities are constantly changing. A useful overview of what is available is offered by the University of Surrey (CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE CAQDAS PACKAGE) and in

The software you use has to be the software that is the best for your project. You may also what to investigate how easy it is to familiarise yourself with a specific software and how much you will benefit from it (for the thesis and beyond).

While UC has a site licence for NVivo, it may be useful to consider alternatives. Software such as Dedoose, Atlas.Ti or Transana (for video analysis) are useful alternatives. A nice resource if you are simply after word frequency is Wordle, which will represent word frequencies in clouds.


DeDoose is a web based tool used for data management, coding and analysis in qualitative and mixed methods research. Developed by researchers at the UCLA Center for Culture in Health in the late 1990s as a tool that can be used for mixed methods, is easy to use, cheaper than what was available and which does not require downloading software. DeDoose cost about $10/month – but you can try it for free for a month and you only pay for the months during which you are using the software.

The DeDoose website has heaps of resources for using DeDoose. Some of the online resources are:


NVivo is a well known qualitative data management tool. It is not cheap, but UC has a licence for NVivo. This means you can access it for free if you are a UC staff or student. IT services will install NVivo on UC computers. If you want to download it on your own computer, you will need to borrow the software CD from the Library or download the software from the QSR website after obtaining the UC licence key from the UC IT service desk or from Graduate Research and Research Development.

Nvivo self-training opportunities are available online:

Other resources for using NVivo are:

Transcribing text

Transcribing is very time intensive. Having a recording of good quality helps. It is also important if someone else will do the transcription work. If the quality of the recording is not very good, a transcriber will start trying to guess certain words and they may get it wrong particularly if they are not across the subject matter.

There are new tools coming up to help, it may pay to keep on eye out for new software. A recommended tool is  It is a free tool that allows to easily move forward with transcribing. It does not do the transcribing, but makes it easier to do.

Services recommended by other research students 

  • Pacific transcription ‘Was used several times for transcription and found to be good.’
  • Outscribe ‘They’re fast and reliable and affordable.’
  • Escribe for all my PhD interviews, and ‘Vicki has been brilliant!! ‘
  • ‘I used Digital Transcripts up in Sydney for my honours research project last year and was very happy with their services and prices: 8 people in a workshop, some with strong accents, a good amount of cross-talking – surprised that they could unpick probably 98-99% of the conversations! Very accurate as well. They offer SSL encryption for uploading your data as well – handy to ensure privacy ’
  • Ruth at toptype ‘I send dictated material over the internet and Ruth provides the material back within the time I ask for it. ‘
  • Transcriber Online: ‘they were pretty good.  A fast turnaround with reasonable reliability and accuracy. They are Canberra based, so their rates may not be as good as some of the offshore services – but if the data is sensitive, I would much prefer to go with the local option.’

Speech recognition tools

Some researchers have found speech recognition tools Dragon Dicatate or software available on any computer or Ipad that has Microsoft 8 or higher, useful.

Dragon Dictate and Naturally Speaking: I have been using Dragon Naturally speaking or DragonDictate as it is referred to on the Mac version, for about ten years and have tried a number of others along the way. For PC it is fantastic, for Mac, which I switched to in January this year it is the best around, but not perfect. Perhaps that has more to do with the fact that it works in a different way and so I miss some of the commands that I have grown into. The speech recognition software on the Mac is very slow and simply not accurate enough and does not have the capacity for larger document dictation. DragonDictate has a transcription system that will read to you that is quite good, but I don’t use it very much. DragonDictate or NaturallySpeaking can take recordings from interviews that are recorded with a quality microphone, but where people speak over the top of each other or there is background noise it has trouble getting a high level of accuracy, so you still need to keep careful notes or listen to the transcription yourself. One of the reasons that I particularly like the DragonDictate system is that it not only uses an individual word for word recognition system, but it also has a system that will look at the context of your sentence so that it can make alterations on the go: Very handy, very quick. Most of the competition either uses a contextual system or a word for word system.

All these systems need a good quality microphone and if you are doing interviews a recorder, not always expensive but careful consideration needs to be given to signal to noise ratios and background noise for them to work well.

If you are going to use an on-board microphone, this works reasonably well on a Macintosh computer but is usually not very good on a PC, you will need an external microphone. If you are going to record conversations you need to check that the recording device will connect to your computer. Newer Macintosh machines have a very complicated audio input output system and so it is best to use a USB microphone or a recorder that has a USB port.

The systems don’t take as long to set up as they used to, they will go through your emails, letters and other correspondence and see how you write, checking out your style in about half an hour or so and adapting to individual users very quickly.

I can often read a newspaper article or something else very quickly into my computer, certainly much more quickly than I can type, and I used to frustrate my secretary because I could speak much more quickly than she could type, she could do 120 words a minute. DragonDictate can do about 240.

On a final note get NaturallySpeaking or DragonDictate preferred or above, don’t get the base level entry or entry-level software. Yes it is very much cheaper but it is missing some of the context recognition capacity which makes a huge difference to its ability to learn. If you are using this to do a Ph.D. you will be using a larger vocabulary than the average person and anything less than Preferred simply does not have the capacity to learn your vocabulary. If you have a legal background or a medical background then it is worthwhile getting the version that has your vocabulary or purchasing the appropriate vocabulary.

I use voice recognition software (Dragon/NaturallySpeaking Professional) to transcribe speech. I listen to the speech on the earphone and speak into the microphone. The current version 12 is quite effective. It’s tricky starting and stopping the recording. I need to do that because I have poor short-term memory. As I understand it, it isn’t feasible to get Dragon to transcribe somebody else’s speech unless you have got them to “train” it. It is certainly not feasible to have several different voices in the one recording and expect Dragon to make sense of it.

See also


Gerwien, R. A painless guide to statistics. Online resources for biology.

Intersect. Introduction to Excel.

MANTRA is a free online course for those who manage digital data as part of their research project.