Quality & Quantity 33: 135–156, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Qualitative Text Analysis Supported by Conceptual
and UTA WILLE
Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität, 10099 Berlin, Germany;
Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen (ZUMA), Postfach 122155, D-68072 Mannheim, Germany
Abstract. Content analysis as a method in social sciences is used to systematically explore textual
data. Data resulting from content analysis can be made transparent by saving it in a conceptual data
system. This supports its interpretation and reexamination and the process of interpretative theory
building. By means of an example of a conceptual data system from musicology, the possibilities and
restrictions of this new approach in computer-aided qualitative text research are analyzed. Finally,
the approach is discussed as a general method of qualitative formal theory building in the context of
Key words: computer-aided text analysis, Formal Concept Analysis, conceptual data system, data-
oriented theory building.
Computer-aided techniques for the management, coding, retrieval, and analysis of
textual data are of increasing importance in social science text research. Computer
systems especially designed for text analysis allow the researchers to handle and
to systematically organize huge amounts of textual data. They provide enhanced
coding and retrieval techniques, and include various statistical tools for hypothesis
testing. But the implemented systems usually do not support researchers com-
ing from an interpretative, hermeneutic or inductive tradition of text analysis to a
sufﬁcient extent in their process of developing qualitative theory (cf. Kelle, 1996).
Therefore, we propose an approach to computer-aided text analysis based on
‘Formal Concept Analysis’ which especially tries to support the iterative process of
formulating categories and the process of data-oriented theory building typical for
qualitative text analysis. It should be emphasized that, using the term ‘qualitative’,
we refer to a rather inductive and interpretative approach to text analysis which
develops theory from the data. A more hypothetico-deductive approach focusing
on hypothesis testing can be supported as well by exploring gathered data with
the help of ‘conceptual data systems’; but a principal strength of our approach lies
Author for correspondence.