Small Packages for Big (Qualitative) Data

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Smart devices and online research platforms are changing the landscape of qualitative data collection and analysis. While data collection mechanisms have flourished, analytic tools to work with that data have not meaningfully evolved. Changes in professional practice and advances in technology are creating new opportunities—and new pressure —to develop software tools that are focused, simple to use, fit flexibly with a variety of analytic processes, adapt to different data sets and do not lock data into proprietary formats or researchers into predefined analytic processes. We call such tools Small Packages for Big (Qualitative) Data. This paper defines the concept and introduces three such early stage tools—Voyant, Mandala Browser and Nineteen, and links qualitative research to another field experiencing similar changes and tool development, the Digital Humanities. Lastly, we present a case study to demonstrate how Small Packages can focus investigations, build early-stage familiarity with data, and inform subsequent analysis.

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