Qualitative analysis of student assignments: a practical look at ATLAS.ti

B. Jane Scales (Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, Washington, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Publication date: 15 February 2013



The purpose of this paper is to review the basic principles of qualitative analysis, and examine the practical application of these principles to analyze student assignments using the ATLAS.ti software.


Student comments from an assignment are prepared for import into ATLAS.ti. The comments are coded, and then analyzed for patterns using ATLAS.ti and its mechanisms for exploring data and data patterns.


ATLAS.ti offers myriad analytic tools that allow the researcher to quantify qualitative information through coding, data query, cross‐tabulation, and networked visualization of project design. By developing both technical expertise with the software, and developing familiarity with qualitative methodology, librarians can wield an effective means to assess and evaluate text‐based data, such as student assignments or surveys.

Research limitations/implications

Because the ATLAS.ti software, and the qualitative analysis process itself is so complex, this article can only outline the most prominent aspects of the tool.

Practical implications

The document can serve as a “jumping‐off” point for other researchers wishing to either explore the qualitative analysis process, particularly as conducted with ATLAS.ti. The reader will become more familiar with the basic concepts of qualitative analysis as reflected in the organization and functions of the ATLAS.ti, as well as the process of preparing and analyzing textual information with ATLAS.ti.


Because there is a general lack of literature on setting up a project with the software, the article is potentially valuable to anyone wishing to expand and improve their evaluative skills using ATLAS.ti or similar tools.



Scales, B. (2013), "Qualitative analysis of student assignments: a practical look at ATLAS.ti", Reference Services Review, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 134-147. https://doi.org/10.1108/00907321311300956

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