Image by yorkville via FlickrI am up to my eyeballs in two very large sets of data--both stored in NVivo 9: 1) the Journal Project; 2) the Sexting Project.
The Journal Project is large with journal entries and photos of art pieces as primary items. The Journal Project was a one-woman show (me).
The Sexting Project is an effort of a whole team and includes focus group transcripts, a literature data base, and memos from many people.
It's unusual to have projects in Qualitative Data Analysis Software (QDAS) of relative size and complexity. From what I can tell a lot of people give up before they get to this place. We don't have many sizable examples to look at, poke around in. Thank goodness for the doctoral students I have worked with--and the projects they have produced. That's given me a lot of ways to 'look into' the shape these things take and the ways they look at various points.
I was thinking about this issue this morning as I had my tea, and I realized that qualitative researchers who don't use QDAS think (this is what I think they think) that QDAS organized projects are somehow neat, streamlined, efficient, like an industrial kitchen--approved and 'up-to-code' (get it...that's a joke...code?!).
But this is not so. No matter how many standards are set they tend to become idiosyncratic, individualistic, unique (inefficient). The labyrinth is a better metaphor than the industrial kitchen. Or maybe they are like software packages that have developed over time and has old code in different corners...and then I stumbled on what really seemed like the right metaphor: a Victorian home with backstairs, window seats, and closets that are surprisingly large. I lived in such a house as a child and the metaphor suddenly connected to experience.
In my QDAS projects I have certain ways of putting things for reference. I have redundancies. I have shelves and furniture that I hide away in some pretty expansive closets. I keep things I don't need...just in case. Basically it is like me. Like my office. Like my brain.