Using CAQDAS in Visual Data Analysis: A Systematic Literature Review

  • Ana Isabel Rodrigues
  • António Pedro Costa
  • António Moreira
Keywords: Systematic Literature Review, Visual Research, Visual Methods, Visual Data Analysis, CAQDAS.


It is in the face of new challenges to qualitative research that new opportunities emerge. For Minayo (2016), we can never forget that theories and methods are related to the reality of the world. And because the world has changed a lot in the last twenty years, qualitative research is going its own way and adapting itself to the “new” reality.  A new context, framed by a visual culture paradigm, is revealed to researchers who, as we know, and especially in qualitative research, are much more sensitive to what surrounds them. Thus, there is growing evidence that visual methods and visual data mark a shift in qualitative research. The use of visual methods thus emerges as a field of study, which Rose (2016) defines as "Visual Research Methods" (VRM), still in an initial, but developing phase of qualitative research (Athelstan & Deller, 2013). The use of visual data can include photography or video among other forms and can be incorporated into qualitative research projects in various ways (Pink, 2011).

 The use of Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) is very recent when compared with the history of qualitative data analysis, which began in anthropological literature during the 20 century. More recently and framed by the use of the visual element in qualitative methods, researchers have a set of data at their disposal with visual support, allowing the introduction of new interpretive elements that enrich the analysis and understanding of their object of study.

However, despite all the development in the use of CAQDAS, a discussion of the practical or technical procedures for analysing qualitative data using software is lacking in the social sciences literature (Silver &  Patashnick, 2011), mainly related to audio-visual data analysis.

Therefore, this paper aims to systematically review the literature, examining the current state of the art of visual methods and visual data analysis, focusing on the use of CAQDAS. As with other disciplines that employ systematic reviews, there are a number of different reasons why this type of literature review should be undertaken (Budgen & Brereton, 2006). In this sense, the present study emerges from the following needs: (i) to summarize existing evidence concerning visual methods and the use of CAQDAS tools and their increased uptake for audio-visual analysis; (ii) to identify where there are gaps in current research, in order to help determine where further investigation might be needed; and (iii) to help position new research activities. Based on these reasons, a Systematic Literature Review (SLR) will help achieve an objective summary of research evidence concerning this topic by producing better quality reviews and evaluations. To this end, relevant journal articles will be analysed in the future, with the identification of some important issues as well as gaps in existing knowledge. This analysis will provide valuable input for the development of research suggestions and directions for future work in this area.