Software to tag and organise information from sources - is this Obsidian/Roam?

When I was a student I used NVivo (formerly Nud*st) software, which was for qualitative research data analysis.

It enabled you to highlight text in various sources (documents or web pages) and cmd/right-click to add it to a ‘node’ which is basically a tag/label. All labels could then be arranged into a tree to enable you to retrieve/report on all the text snippets rated to that label.

It was particularly useful for analysing interviews and pulling out themes and the relationship of those themes.

As a bad example, if I was researching countries, and I had a quote about Italy I could tag it ‘Italy’. Likewise ‘France’ Later when I realised that I had a lot of quotes about Europe, I could then create a node ‘Europe’ with Italy and France beneath it. I could also create nodes for ‘travel’, ‘food’ or politics’.

So basically I am tagging quotes to tags, but could create and manage tagging as I went, in response to what I was seeing. It’s quite a dynamic system.

It was license only and very bloated but there’s been various times since that I’ve thought it would be helpful for various tasks. Since I’ve heard about Obsidian and Roam on MPU I’ve been wondering whether these would do a similar thing.

Are they indeed the same thing? What else is there? I’d be particularly interested in something lightweight and fairly simple. It’s really just to store references and organise them. I’d be interested to know what more could be done but its not a requirement.

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They both have free trials so you should first and foremost download the demos and try them out to see if they fit.

However it looks like you are looking more for a reference manager / clipper which both these apps are not. You can however paste content into them and link that content as you like.

Have you tried Zotero for that specific use? It excels at saving web data and cataloguing it, and it’s a reference manager first and foremost.

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You’re looking at the category of computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (charmingly called CAQDAS). Wikipedia has a table of various CAQDAS solutions.

The coding (or tagging) aspect of QDA could be done at a very gross level with Obsidian if you embed a #tag in a paragraph, and use Obsidian’s tag panel, and search, features. The result will be a list of locations where the tag occurs. But you wouldn’t generate a list of extracts for the tagged text. The “retrieval” part of your requirements would not be the save as what NVivo can do, for example.

Roam is a bit more functional for this – since it operates on blocks (think: paragraphs) then the blocks could be referenced and embedded into another document. (Obsidian supports a manual, less sophisticated block reference feature, that with work could get you to a similar point.)

Depending on the discipline, some QDA users mark text down to the word or phoneme level – I don’t think this is what the OP is looking to do. It would be a mess to try to do that kind of granular tagging in either Roam or Obsidian.

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I actually used Obsidian for a CAQDAS project a few months ago.

@anon41602260’s right. Obsidian isn’t exactly built for this purpose. However, I had no interest in learning—let alone buying—NVivo or Atlas.ti or whatever for the project.

I didn’t use conventional # tags in Obsidian, though. Instead, as I went through the data, I added the kind of tags the OP describes as links to new “theme” notes. From there, I was able to link those theme notes together in the same way that you build a hierarchy of tags in NVivo. (I was analyzing ~2000 responses to an open-ended survey question, using grounded field theory.)

The neat thing about this approach is that it gave me a fun graph view clustering and visually linking the responses and themes.