The 4 Stages: AN Overview

The Four Stages of Research is a way of thinking through a qualitative research project using MAXQDA. It is not the only way to approach research, but one that I find useful and easy to teach to new users of the software.

Stage 1

MAXQDA is a tool. It does not do the research for you. But it can make the research process much easier, if you approach it in a systematic way and develop a conceptual framework

This stage isn’t about MAXQDA, it is about conducting research

Stage 2 - Workflow

Create your MAXQDA project, and setup a process to organize your work.

  • Identify your data (documents), import them into MAXQDA and organize your documents into groups or sets
  • Begin to build a code system.
  • In some projects you might have a clear idea of the codes you want to content analyze from your work in Stage 1, but this is often not likely to be complete.
  • Use MAXQDA paraphrasing to summarize documents in your own words, and then develop codes from that work.

Stage 3 - The Content Analysis

Stage 3 is where the bulk of the work occurs :content analyzing your documents:

  • Refining the code system
  • Content analyzing your documents
  • Creating memos and comments
  • Identifying patterns and relationships
  • Summarizing your data

Stage 4 - The Art of Data Analysis

Summarize, identify patterns, quantify findings and examples. Write results.


The Art of Data analysis is a multi-step process, in which you have numerous options and tools.

It is often not linear in that you simply go from step A to B to C. Everyone has a different approach and I view Stage 4 as highly personal and subject to your own skills, needs, and ways of tackling a project.

MAXQDA offers a wide variety of tools that can be used to accomplish this. The tutorials provide ideas and examples of how to effectively use the software.

An earlier version of the Four Stages of Research was presented at the 2019 MQIC.

You can view a YouTube video of the presentation here.