Getting started with TAMS Analyzer (first-level coding)

Posted: July 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: research tools, TAMS | 11 Comments »

Getting started with TAMS Analyzer

I’m updating my notes on TAMS as I get better at it.  This should help you get started with the first-level coding of your data.  As I learn more I’ll continue to share steps and tips.

  1. Currently TAMS only works with data in rtf format, although I understand that the upcoming version will also accommodate pdf.  In the meantime, you’ll need to convert your data to rtf before you import it.  (See user manual page 8.)
  2. I recommend creating a basic init file right away. (See user manual pages 35 & 95.) This file will save you a lot of time as you code your data as it tells the program how to treat certain variables and/or contextual data that you mark up in your texts.  Note that you have to TELL the program which file to treat as the init file.  Once you’ve created it (call it “init file”), go to the file list in the workbench.  Highlight the init file in the list of files, and then click the “init file” button.  Now in the bottom left corner of the workbench you’ll see “Init file: name of the file you selected.”  This confirms that which file the system “sees” as the init file.  These are the codes I put in my init file:
    1. {!universal datatype=””}
    2. {!context role}
    3. {!context speaker}
    4. {!button speaker}
    5. {!button “{!end}”}
    6. You can also do “if” coding, like {!if speaker=”Jane”=>role=”trainer”}
  3. Now, consistent with the init file, you’ll include some basic codes in each and every file you work with.  Think of these as basic, structural codes that you’ve already decided on, which are linked to the init file.  These are the particular ones that I’m using:

{!universal datatype=”Interview”} (or fieldnotes, or forum posts, etc.)
{role}{/role} (I code the role of the person in question, so it looks like this: {role}student{/role})

{speaker}{/speaker} (I code the name of the speaker, so it looks like this: {speaker}John{/speaker})

The benefit of steps one and two above is that in my search results I now have columns for contextual information like the type of text (interview, fieldnotes, forum posts, etc.), the speaker in question (Jane, Bob, James, etc.) and their role (student, teacher, staff member, etc.)

  1. Other notes on the information above:
    1. The code {!button speaker} in my init file creates a short cut “button” on each of my files for the {speaker}{/speaker} code.  Clicking the “speaker” button is a nice shortcut for me when I code the data, since I use this particular code a lot.
    2. The code {!button “{!end}”} in my init file creates a short cut “button” on each of my files for the {!end} code, which is a context code.  Without the short cut button I’d need to either type this in by hand or use the menu option Metatags>Structure>{!end}.  This way, I can insert the {!end} tag with just one click.  More about {!end} below.
    3. In my project, I’m using the context code {speaker}{/speaker} because it’s important to me to be able to link statements with a source (i.e. the person who said it).  Given my large interview sample, having the capability to easily link statements/data to people is great.  When I’m coding, I use the {speaker}{/speaker} code each time somebody takes a turn.  The corollary to this is that I need to tell TAMS when that person’s turn of speech ends.  To do this, I use the metatag {!end}.  A passage of coded data would therefore look like this:  {speaker}Barry{/speaker} When are you going to turn in that assignment? {!end} {speaker}Ralph{/speaker} I’m not sure.  Probably next week.  {!end}
      1. TIP (1) be careful to mark all the speakers, or you will think the wrong people are saying the things you are finding.
      2. TIP (2) put in {!end} whenever the value of speaker changes, or you will be misled as to who is speaking.
  2. Now we get to the regular data codes.  As indicated above, TAMS uses squiggly brackets { } to denote coded data.  The codes go on either side of the passage.  The end code contains a slash: {code}piece of text here{/code}.

Code names can have numbers and underscore characters. No spaces permitted.

Passages of text can have multiple codes; codes can be nested and can overlap

Create a new code by entering its name into the field, then press “new”

As you create codes you’ll use the “definition” button to define them.

That sums up where I am right now in my first-level coding.  I’ll report back with more information as I progress.

11 Comments on “Getting started with TAMS Analyzer (first-level coding)”

  1. 1 Will said at 5:11 pm on February 14th, 2011:


    I was pleased to find your review of TAMS Analyzer as there aren’t too many out there. I’d like to ask you now that some time has passed, are you still using TAMS? I’d love to hear any comments you might have about why or why not.



  2. 2 Tabitha Hart said at 8:10 pm on February 21st, 2011:

    Hi Will. Yes, I’m still using TAMS. It works perfectly for the sort of data analysis that I’m doing for my dissertation, and once I learned how to use it I felt pretty comfortable with it. I’ve just finished some additional documentation on TAMS, geared towards people who haven’t got any experience with it. It treats the basics of getting started with the program. The documentation will be posted on the CSSCR website soon. If you’d like a copy earlier please let me know. Cheers!

  3. 3 Cynthia said at 3:23 pm on March 10th, 2011:

    Would it be possible to have a copy of your documentation on TAMS. I am trying to use it to analyse interviews and would welcome any help with negotiating my way around the programme and how to get the best out of it.
    Best Wishes

  4. 4 Tabitha Hart said at 9:25 am on April 22nd, 2011:

    Sure! If anyone wants a copy of the documentation I’ve created, just email me and I’ll send it to you.

  5. 5 Karren Streagle said at 2:09 pm on May 31st, 2011:

    I am also glad I found this forum. I am getting ready to download TAMS for work on my dissertation. Wish me luck and I’ll be back. I would appreciate any documentation you can share.

  6. 6 Tabitha Hart said at 8:37 am on June 1st, 2011:

    Hi Karren, I’m happy to share the documentation with you. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

  7. 7 Sylvia said at 5:20 am on June 27th, 2011:

    I’m using TAMS analyzer for my PhD and found it really good and best of all – free!!

    I keep reading reviews that say it’s difficult to use and I’d be better off with NVivo on Parallels, but I’ve successfully used TAMS niw for three years and liked it. I guess because I’ve never used qualitative software before I didn’t know what to expect and fouund it easy to use. Just though I’d share my positive feedback about TAMS. Like your blog too.

  8. 8 Robbie said at 7:59 am on July 21st, 2011:

    Hi Tabatha — I’m just getting started with using TAMS and I’d love to take a look at the documentation you made for new users. Thanks so much for your review!

  9. 9 Tabitha Hart said at 12:22 pm on July 21st, 2011:

    Hi Robbie — no problem. I’ll send that to you now.

  10. 10 Name said at 7:41 pm on October 27th, 2011:

    Hi Tabitha. I would love to take a look at your documentation for new users if you don’t mind sending it to me. Thanks!

  11. 11 Tabitha Hart said at 10:21 am on October 28th, 2011:

    Sure — try this page of my blog: You should be able to download the documentation with just a click. If you have any trouble let me know.