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XSight 1.1 reviewed

Need to make sense of the feedback give by 80 focus groups? Tim Macer takes a look at the new version of this qualitative data analysis tool.

It is hard to imagine any qualitative researchers hand counting their questionnaires into crosstabs these days, armed with tally sheets and an array of coloured pens. Yet in the realm of qualitative research, the miracle is that so many great insights emerge daily from just such an alignment of mind, paper transcript and luminous pen. Analysis of groups and depths remains a resolutely technology-free zone.

XSight is a computer-assisted qualitative data analysis (or CAQDAS) tool from QSR, an Australian software developer. QSR started by developing NUD*IST and NVIVO, both widely used in academic and social research but rarely applied in the world of MR. Existing CAQDAS tools tended to take too long to set up and use, and did not really fit the typical qual workflow.

XSight launched this time last year to address the more time-critical MR market, and now, a new version, 1.1, is being released that contains useful enhancements, mostly focused around productivity. The program runs as a standalone desktop program, under Windows, with a nicely designed, intuitive Windows point-and-click interface. A big improvement in 1.1 is time-saving drag-and-drop support in a number of areas.

The program is pretty flexible, so although there is an implicit workflow, you can go with it, against it, or ignore it altogether, if that is where the creative quallie mind is taking you. At the core, are three components: the transcript, the analysis framework, which equates to the guide and the topics, and commentaries, which are your observations, selected verbatims and other assorted musings.

Some users will find it helpful to put in the entire guide as their analysis framework during the research design stage, before any groups have taken place. The framework is a tree structure of headings and subheadings which you can make as granular as you like. So if ‘packaging’ for a product was your high level topic, ‘colour’, ‘images’ and ‘wording’ might he the next level down, and within, say, ‘colour’, you could list ‘pink’, ‘blue’, ‘white’, then down to ‘like’, ‘dislike’, and so on. It pays off going for a pretty detailed analysis frame, as you will be able to pull out all your observations at any level in the hierarchy.

If you set up the framework first, this could be used to supplement the guide, or even replace it, if you provided your moderators with copies of XSight on their laptops, which is how Mori chose to use it. You can just as easily wait and create them or add to them with the finished transcripts already loaded.

If you are importing transcripts, you import each one, give it a name and classify it by demographics or other profile data which works at a group level. Again, you can extend this classification in order to match your group selection criteria; for instance, age, gender, region, day of week, moderator and so on.

If you work through a transcript, you then choose one transcript, and start reading. The screen is divided into three main areas: transcript, analysis framework and a space for your comments and observations. At each salient point you pick the relevant level in your analysis hierarchy, and click to select it. Comments are now focused only on that single analysis heading, and you can amend them or add new ones, which can be paraphrases, notes, hunches or actual, selected verbatim, which you can simply drag from the transcript and drop into place. This usefully creates a hyperlink back to the text which means, several hundred comments later, you can always see the full context of any verbatim that you pulled out, simply by clicking on the link.

If you choose work directly from audio or video, and forgo getting a text transcript, it pays still to define and classify each group or depth separately. This way, you just leave the transcript part empty, and simply use the analysis framework to start filling in your commentaries. Of course, you will have to type in verbatims, but it can make for very fast turnaround.

The real power comes once all of the marking up or ‘coding’ has been done. Bringing everything together is done through the ‘query’ window, where you can sift and sort all the responses and use just about any classification or any level of the analysis framework to pull out all the responses for all the groups, or filter them by demographics. This is where the real thinking goes on, and at the bottom of the window, you can open up a document which you can gradually develop into your report.

Reports can be either destined for Word or for Powerpoint. In either it will let you use headings and subheadings in Word, or slides and bullet points in PowerPoint, to organise your report. It seems to work a lot better in Word. You can’t see the slides you are creating in PowerPoint to work out what might fit, until you export them, which makes the PowerPoint mode a bit of a stab in the dark. You can share work to some extent with the tool, but is not a multi-user tool, and relies on your managing multiple copies yourself then using merge process to consolidate the results.

The User View: Sara Butler at MORI Qualitative

Sara Butler, an associate director at MORI’s Qualitative Hothouse offers this explanation:“We are valued for our thinking, our ideas and our interpretation, so there is a bit of a fear of something that might appear to take this away by computerising it (the process).”

Yet, Sara reports the opposite happened, when she used QSR’s XSight qualitative software last year to handle a six month mega-project of some 80 focus groups up and down the country. Not only did the tool impose a discipline and rigour on the process it also reduced the burden of management, made it easier for her to monitor the job in progress, and the consistency of work from different moderators, and brought her extra thinking time. The tool is now in regular use at MORI.

Sara Butler rates XSight highly for overall design, ease of use and “the way it pulls everything together, like a virtual whiteboard.” She estimates it saved her about two hours of work on each group on her large project, while through the project tracking capabilities, achieve much higher levels of consistency across all groups by letting her get her hands on the data much sooner.

Sara observes: “People are taking on larger and larger qualitative projects, which opens up a whole new world of project management. One of its key strengths is that it provides a project management tool too.”

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, June 2005, Issue 469.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis system designed specifically for qualitative market researchers..