Should you use TAMS?

Posted: April 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: research tools, TAMS | 4 Comments »

Recently I’ve had a spate of emails from researchers interested in using TAMS Analyzer.  As with the adoption of any new tool, people wonder if they should take the leap and invest their time and energy into learning how to use it.

I’ve been using TAMS for nearly a year now, and am happy with it.  I have used it to analyze a large data set comprised of interview transcripts, lesson transcripts, forum posts, text-based chats, and articles.  Using TAMS I have coded more than 4,000 segments of text.  I find TAMS an excellent tool for organizing and coding (first level, second level, etc.) my data.

Here are my reasons for using TAMS:

  1. I found it awkward to switch back and forth between a Windows-based application and my native Mac apps and desktop.  When first shopping around for qualitative data analysis software, I really wanted to use AtlasTi.  AtlasTi is the tool of choice in my department and across my institution at large.  I bought a copy of it and ran it on my Mac using VMWare Fusion.  VMWare Fusion is one of a number of handy programs that allows you to run Windows-only applications on a Mac.  This setup worked just fine, but it hogged my laptop’s memory and thus slowed the application’s performance.  Also, I frequently needed to access information from my native Mac applications and desktop, and it was klunky switching back and forth between those and my virtual machine.
  2. TAMS is written specifically for Mac OSX.  After the experience above, I decided that I only wanted to work with a tool that would run directly on my Mac.  There’s not a lot of choice out there, and…
  3. TAMS is free.  It doesn’t get much better than that.
  4. I’m doing this project on my own, so I don’t need a tool that facilitates collaboration.  As a Mac user, if I did ever want a tool that would ease the tasks of sharing, discussing, and analyzing data, I might opt for a web-based tool like Dedoose.  Note that TAMS does support collaborative projects — I just haven’t tried out those features myself.
  5. I’m happiest working on my own machine, which I can easily carry around with me.  If I didn’t have a portable machine, or if was working on a number of machines at different locations, I’d probably use a web-based tool like Dedoose.

I’m not saying that TAMS is perfect.  Choosing a qualitative data analysis tool, however, is not about finding perfection.  Rather, it’s about selecting a tool that is well-suited to your circumstances and your needs.  You take into account your data set, your analytic approach, the equipment you’re working with, the people on your team, etc.  For my particular needs, TAMS has been a good match.

4 Comments on “Should you use TAMS?”

  1. 1 Carole Naylor said at 2:00 am on April 14th, 2011:

    Thanks Tabitha, this is just the kind of info would be TAMS users need to make the leap. As you say it takes a lot of time and energy to take on new software (especially when already time poor during a big project) and your blog gave me the confidence to try. I had found out about TAMS through web searches as I run a Mac but had previously found no one who had used it. I am now one week into using TAMS and, after initial teething problems due to misunderstanding the user manual, am now transcribing directly into TAMS using the audio/visual tools and coding data. Thanks for the nudge.

  2. 2 Tabitha Hart said at 12:26 pm on April 14th, 2011:

    Hi Carole, I’m glad it’s working out for you! How do you find the playback functionalities in TAMS? I’m curious to hear more about your experience doing the transcription within TAMS. (Up until now I’ve just imported completed transcripts into it.)

  3. 3 Orlando Figueiredo said at 11:46 am on November 22nd, 2011:

    I am also using TAMS with my PhD project and I am enjoying it a lot. I also thought in install Parallels and use MaxQDA or Atlas.ti, but I decided that I want something that is native to Mac. I also thought in use Hyperresearch, but as a lot of my data is in PDF format I soon give up of it because it does not support that file format – too bad for Researchware.
    Thanks for your post.
    Best regards.

  4. 4 Tabitha Hart said at 2:34 pm on November 25th, 2011:

    Hi Orlando, and thanks for your comment. How is importing pdfs into TAMS working out for you?