Appendix B. Implementation Notes

Table of Contents

History and Aims
The Weft File Format

History and Aims

When I first studied social anthropology, the teaching of research methods and methodology focussed on data collection - fieldwork - and much less on the analysis of the data collected. When five or so years later, I first used a CAQDAS tool, the basic code and retrieve features seemed to me to be useful for the kind of data that many anthropologists work with.

However, having used one package in earnest, and briefly tried a few others, there seemed to be a number of barriers to their wider use. The freeware packages I could find were either unavailable for Windows, or were console or browser-based applications rather than having graphical user interfaces (GUIs).

Commercial packages are expensive and restrictively licensed. The user interface of the commercial packages I've tried also seem daunting, for various reasons. Firstly, some suffer from idiosyncrasies arising from the software's age, or from the whimsy of the software developer. Secondly, they're encumbered by complex options and tools. This complexity is partly due to the range of sophisticated tools which the packages provide, but which many users will never have cause to use. It is also, in some cases, due to the embedding of commitments to specific analytic methodologies into the design of the interface. Whilst perhaps helpful for those familiar with that methodology's terms and processes, it obscures the use of the package for the unfamiliar. For example, much of the sociological literature on qualitative analysis is little cited in social anthropology; I cannot recall ever seeing grounded theory mentioned in an anthropological paper, despite its prominence in recent sociology.

The initial development of Weft QDA was spurred by having a commercial licence expire just as I was starting work on my dissertation research project on credit unions in South London. It was first used for the analysis of interview transcripts and field notes from this fieldwork. Weft QDA is designed to present a GUI that is easily comprehended and used by anyone familiar with common desktop applications and their interface metaphors.

Weft QDA is not designed with any particular analytic method in mind. The process of reading text and selecting and marking passages as "about" a topic, and then later returning to review marked text about that topic is termed "coding". Weft QDA is designed on the principle that this activity is a generic interpretive strategy applied under a range of names in a wide range of social sciences and humanities. It is designed to make this activity straightforward, whilst allowing flexibility for adaptation to various specific analytic approaches.