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Qualitative Data Analysis: Choosing QDA Software

This guide provides information and guidance for researchers interested in conducting qualitative data analysis.

Support Service Changes

NYU Data Services has discontinued its support services for NVivo and is switching to MAXQDA. 

The Data Services team is pursuing options to make MAXQDA remotely accessible for researchers within the NYU Community through the NYU Virtual Computer Lab. We hope to make this available by mid to late October. 

Researchers who are using NVivo should please take steps to insure independent continuity of access to NVivo, or take steps to transfer projects to MAXQDA. More information about transferring projects from NVivo to MAXQDA is available at the next tab of this box. Please contact with further questions or requests for assistance.

Best practices for transferring projects between NVivo and MaxQDA

In order to transfer projects between software packages, theREFI-QDA (.QDPX files) file format should be used. 

The REFI-QDA Standard allows project transfer between participating qualitative data analysis (QDA) programs. Projects can be exported from one program and opened in another, where they are converted into the receiving program's format.

Due to differences between programs (and because the standard is still in development) not all project items are transferred. Currently, the following NVivo items are supported:

  • Data (source) files
  • Nodes
  • Cases
  • Coding (with some exceptions, see below)
  • Classifications
  • Memos
  • Memo links
  • Sets (with exceptions, see below)
  • Annotations (with exceptions, see below)

See Limitations, below, for item types not transferred.

Depending on the program you are working in, projects are exported as a single QDPX file (containing the project data files) or as a QDPX file and a folder for the data files. NVivo exports a single QDPX file that contains the data files.



The following items are not currently transferred in QDPX files.

Project items
  • PDF, picture and media annotations (these are copied to a memo instead of being created as annotations)
  • Datasets
  • Framework matrices
  • Maps
  • Node matrices and result matrices
  • Queries
  • Relationship nodes and relationship types
  • Reports and extracts
  • Result nodes
  • Search folders
  • See-also links
  • Sentiment nodes
  • Sets (only nodes, cases, supported data files and memos can be imported or exported—other set items are removed from the sets)
  • Aggregate coding
  • PDF text coding (code references are copied to a memo instead of being written to nodes)
Structure and color
  • Node custom order
  • Source folder structures
  • Attribute value colors
  • User colors
Pictures and Media
  • Region coordinates for picture logs
  • Multiple picture log rows (are merged into one row)
  • Custom fields in audio and video transcripts
  • Video: mp4 (h264)
  • Audio: m4a
  • Attribute custom order
  • Attribute of Time type (are transferred as Text type)

Export a QDPX file from NVivo

The following list will provide step by step instructions to export at QDPX file from NVivo.

  1. On the Share tab, in the Project group, click Export Project.
  2. Select REFI-QDA Project.
  3. Browse to the location you want to save the QDPX file.
  4. Click OK.

Importing to MAXQDA

The following list will provide step by step instructions for importing a .QDPX file to MAXQDA

  1. Click on Open Project – either in the Start dialog that appears immediately after MAXQDA starts, or in the Home tab if you have already opened a project in MAXQDA.
  2. In the appearing file dialog, select an REFI-QDA Project file and click

Important notes for importing into MAXQDA

  • Text documents are imported as plain text.
  • Annotations of coded segments (comments) are shortened to 255 characters.
  • Memos which are assigned to the whole project are imported as free memos.
  • Coded text segments in PDF files are imported as coded image segments.
  • Document group classifcations, and variables are not imported
  • Audio and video files are copied to the external files folder and have an empty transcript. Any existing associated transcripts are imported as separate document.

General Information

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Resources for Comparing QDA Tools

There are a variety of Qualtiative Research/ QDA resources and comparison tutorials available online for free. Below are a few that have been selected for their relevance to the tools available to the NYU community.

  • Fielding N. (1995). 'Choosing the Right Software Package', ESRC Data Archive Bulletin January SHORT
  • Lewis, B. (2004). 'NVivo 2.0 and Atlas.ti 5.0: A Comparative Review of Two Popular Qualitative Data-Analysis Programs', Field Methods 16(4) 439-469
  • Bird, K. (1995). Computer-Aided Qualitative Data Analysis: Theory, Methods and Practice. United Kingdom: Sage Publications (CA).​


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Original work in this LibGuide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.