A review of software applications and non‐software approaches in JAN

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Many researchers agree that data analysis software can be prohibitively expensive. Researchers collecting data are fortunate if they are affiliated to an institution that subscribes to a catalogue of annual software licences. The advantages of software application becomes apparent when managing large amounts of data and when dealing with multiple modes of data (e.g. text, visual or audio) (Foley & Timonen 2015). In the data analysis sections of JAN articles, quantitative and qualitative researchers commonly report the use of computer programs to assist in data management and analysis. We carried out a descriptive review of JAN studies that use software‐assisted and non‐software approaches to data analysis for the period July 2015–June 2016 inclusive. The findings should provide nursing and midwifery researchers with an overview of the types of software applications and software‐free methods used in contemporary research studies. This descriptive review makes no attempt to comment on the appropriateness of software choices, or the citations quoted to support any research methodology. Furthermore, for convenience of reporting where the term quantitative is mentioned it refers to the studies reported under the quantitative heading in the JAN. In other words, quantitative type studies may occur under other major JAN headings such as clinical trials and these are handled separately. For clarity, the 201 included studies were examined and categorised under the following JAN headings: Reviews (24); Concept analysis (16); Quantitative (77); Clinical trials (4); Qualitative (56); Research methodology (14); and mixed methods (10), totalling 201 articles.
Results showed that some researchers use more than one software package for data analysis. Table 1 (row 3) shows that IBM SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) used on its own is the most commonly used software for quantitative studies, thirty‐nine (51%), research methodology studies six (43%), mixed‐method studies (three of 10) and clinical trials (three out of four). SPSS is also the most popular application used in conjunction with other software applications. Table 1 shows that it was used with one other software packages in 14 (18%) of quantitative studies and it was used alongside three additional software packages for one of 10 mixed‐method studies. No software featured as the most likely software application used alongside SPSS. However, SPSS and SPSS for analysis of moment structures (AMOS) were reported in a small number of studies, four (5%) of quantitative studies. Apart from SPSS, in the research methodology category, one study used three software packages (STATISTICA, MedCalc and Factor). Table 1 shows that some articles, seven quantitative studies (9%) did not report software usage despite reporting complex data analysis. Table 1 shows that all 10 mixed method studies reported the use of software and also cited Author(s) to provide justification for either, methodology, guidelines or general approach to data analysis and two of the 10 mixed method studies cited (Braun & Clarke 2006).
Table 1 shows that only five (21%) of the 24 review articles used software, two used RevMan, one used either STATA, Atlas.ti or NVvivo. Two of these five reviews also cited Author(s) that provided guidelines, methodology or analyses approach. In addition, as little as two (8%) of all 24 reviews used RevMan and one (4%) used STATA software indicating the small number of reviews suitable for meta‐analysis. Most of the review articles, 19 (79%) used software‐free methods with eight (33%) citing (Whittemore & Knafl 2005) as the most applied software‐free methodology.
Table 2 shows that software was applied in 27 (48%) of all 56 qualitative articles. Table 2 also shows that NVivo used on its own is the singularly most popular software of choice for qualitative analysis; used in 17 (30%) of articles.
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