How do I get access to Qualitative Software?

I want to use NVivo / MAXQDA / Atlas.ti / Dedoose. Can you give me a license? How can I get a license? What are my options to pay less?


As yet, the university has not purchased any licenses for qualitative software. If you know you want to use a specific software, you would need to purchase it from the vendor. Most offer licenses for students at a discount and there may be occasional sales.


But First...

Do consider if you need that specific software. Many people ask about learning NVivo, for example, but find out that another option better meets their needs. All of the major packages have the same core set of features, even if they are implemented differently. Plus, many support the REFI XML exchange format, meaning that your files, codes, and coding can be transferred among them if you later decide that something else is a better fit.

Although they each have special features that make them stand out, there is no software that everybody prefers, nor one that is the best for everybody. If you are working in a team, there are additional considerations (see the FAQ How can I use Qualitative Software with a Team?). If you are mostly categorizing smaller text excerpts, consider if software you have might be sufficient:

  • if you collected data through open-ended questions in Qualtrics, use their built-in TextIQ tools--other survey software may have similar tools.
  • If your data is already in an Excel spreadsheet, consider using the columns and filter technique.

These four Qualitative Softwares all have many videos and useful documentation for learning how to use them. See our Qualitative Software Guide for learning paths and additional information for each software as well as comparisons and other tips.

Free Trial Periods

Each major software package has a free trial period that may be sufficient for small or short projects. Even if you know you will purchase the software, you should take advantage of those free trial periods first to ensure it is a good fit, and get on their mailing list to be notified of sales and learning opportunities. 

  • NVivo = 14 days
  • Atlas.ti = 5 days within a 45-day period
    • Atlas.ti also has a free demo mode (limited to 10 documents, 25 codes, 50 quotations) that does not expire.
  • MAXQDA  = 14 days
    • For a one-semester course project (no capstones, theses, nor dissertations), faculty can request free 120 day course licenses for their students (not for self).
  • Dedoose = 30 days

If you have already used the free trial for NVivo, MAXQDA, or Atlas.ti and just need access for a few days, email the Digital Scholarship Center at for options.


License Periods

Each software has different licensing periods as well as costs. Picking one with a pricing scheme that matches your needs will usually be the most cost-effective.

Comments by project length:
  • 0 - 4 months: Your best options are Dedoose or Atlas.ti Web. Dedoose has a 30 day free trial, and Atlas.ti's combination of trial period and demo mode may also be sufficient. If it does take longer, there is monthly pricing. Indeed, Dedoose automatically only charges for months you log in.
  • 5 - 6 months: For students, Atlas.ti and MAXQDA have the option of 6 month licenses, which are a good deal for that time frame.
  • 1 - 2 years: NVivo has the highest cost for projects between 1 and 2 years: faculty only have the option of a perpetual license, and the 1 year student license is currently $118, more than a 2 yr license for Atlas.ti ($114) or MAXQDA ($95).

Additional Options

DiSC does have at least one license for each of the desktop softwares to accommodate staff training/teaching, library research, temporary needs, and equitable access. Thus, the Mason community may access NVivo, MAXQDA, or Atlas.ti Desktop at our Computer lab in Fenwick Library during regular hours (please email if you wish to do so). This can be an option for people with short-term needs who are on campus during those hours, but many people prefer to have the software on their own computer.

Here are some additional options to consider. These are generally simple code-and-retrieve software, but some have extra features.

  • QDA Miner Lite (free) - Best option, but only for Windows computers (or Parallels software on a Mac). A feature-limited version of QDA Miner.
  • Taguette (free) - a simple code-and-retrieve software which can be used on the web or installed on your own computer.
  • QualCoder (free) - many features, but has a learning curve (see a video comparison of Taguette and QualCoder).
  • Quirkos - somewhat lower cost than the major software, with helpful features like variables for demographic characteristics and both web and desktop versions.

For More Help

Please email or make an appointment to discuss if you need additional assistance selecting a software that meets your needs and budget.

  • Last Updated Mar 28, 2024
  • Views 165
  • Answered By Debby Kermer

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