LECTOR opens up new realms of cross-referencing free text. We could, for example, compare the role of male mediators with the role of female mediators by simply doing two separate runs, codes 01&08 for male mediators and codes 01 and 07 for female mediators. In point of fact, however, there were no female mediators (see Podolefsky, 1990; 1992).
Since the program works on regular word-processing files, it is easy to use the standard global search and replace commands to change or refine coding categories, not to mention the ability to copy a data set onto another disk and mail it to a colleague or to store the data permanently for future analysis.
CATS does not produce an "analysis," nor is it intended to be "artificial intelligence" of any sort. It is simply a more efficient way of doing the things we already do. As a powerful data management tool, I believe CATS facilitates a deeper scrutiny of the notes.
There is little doubt that computers are rapidly affecting how we do business, particularly in data storage and retrieval. In this chapter, I have tried to point in a direction and suggest that we reflect on qualitative data management and analysis. When I was a graduate student I specialized in quantitative methods, probably because my undergraduate degree in mathematics made it fairly easy for me and also because I could never quite get a handle on what the term analysis meant when applied to qualitative data. The whole notion just seemed to slip through my fingers. My first major field experience provided insights into struggling with field data, but it was really my experience with the Reactions to Crime data in 1978 that set me thinking once again about the value of ethnography and about what we mean by qualitative analysis. It is clear to me that field data and survey data each have a very important story to tell, and that neither can tell the whole story without the other. At the same time, the sheer volume of field notes makes working with qualitative data too burdensome for many. It seems that, like in mathematics, the real crux of a problem and sometimes its solution is not seen until it is taken to the limit. For me, 10,000 pages of field notes was the limit. It is nearly incomprehensible to me that the entire 10,000 pages of Reactions to Crime data, stored in a hard disk sitting on the top of my desk, could now be interrogated in the manner that has been described. Beyond the research adventure, I wonder how 500 pages of field notes on-line would affect graduate and undergraduate education and the development of analytical skills.
Within a few years, we will look back on this chapter and think it naive and simple minded. This is as it should be, and I only hope that the day comes swiftly.