The second phase of REFI developed a Project Exchange Standard, which builds on the work completed in the first phase, when a Codebook Exchange Standard was developed.

Each QDA software has a range of different features (see individual software websites for details). In developing the first version of this Project Exchange Standard, REFI focused on enabling exchange of the following core components between QDA software ‘projects’:

  • sources (text, PDF, image and multimedia formats)
  • segments (specified chunks of materials/data identified as meaningful by the user)
  • codes (labelled ‘tags’ attached to segments)
  • annotations (comments attached to segments, codes, sources or links)
  • memos (writing spaces for analytical notes, either standalone or attached to sources and/or codes)
  • links between codes, segments or memos
  • cases
  • sets/groups of entities
  • visual representations of linked entities in the project
  • user information

The QDA software packages that have implemented the REFI Project Exchange Standard enable some or all of these components to be exported into an XML Project Exchange File (with the extension: .qdpx).

This Project Exchange file can then be imported into a second QDA software for further analytic work. This may be useful if the second QDA software has a feature required for analysis that the first QDA software does not, or when researchers using different QDA software programs wish to collaborate.  The prerequisite for interoperability is that both software packages have implemented the Project Exchange Standard.

Testing of the implementation of import and export, and validation of the export file against the XSD schema is the responsibility of individual software developers.

Please note: because there are differences in how each program functions with respect to sources, segments, codes, memos, annotations, links and their organization, users may experience some modifications upon importing a project into a different program using the REFI standard. In addition, the currently available version does not enable ‘round-tripping’ – i.e. going from software A to software B and then from software B back to software A. Implementing round-tripping is a goal for phase 3 of REFI.

Terminology table
For your convenience, we have translated the terms used for the elements in the REFI datamodel into the terminology used in each software package in the table below. Note that some concepts may not map one to one between packages.

REFI term ATLAS.ti f4analyse NVivo QDA Miner Quirkos Transana
Case document group/code group n/a case case source variable transcript/document
Code code code node code quirk keyword
Codebook codebook code system codebook codebook codebook codebook
Coding coding coding coding coding highlights coding
Description comment comment description description description description
Graph network n/a map n/a n/a n/a
Link link/relation n/a link/connector n/a n/a n/a
Note comment/memo memo/comment annotation/memo comment/memo memo journal/note
Project project project project project project database
Selection quotation selection reference segment quote/highlight quote/clip
Set group n/a set n/a n/a collection
Source document text/associated media file file document source transcript/document
Transcript transcript text transcript document source transcript
User user   user   author user
Variable document group/code group n/a attribute variable source property keyword

Implementation table 
The QDA-XML Project Exchange Standard is available for use as detailed in the table below.

Software Directly involved in developing Project  Exchange Available
ATLAS.ti Mac Yes Yes
ATLAS.ti Windows Yes Yes
Dedoose No April 2019
f4analyse Yes May 2019
MAXQDA No July 2019
NVivo Mac Yes June 2019
NVivo Windows Yes April 2019
QDA Miner Windows Yes Yes
Quirkos Yes Yes
Transana Mac Yes April 2019
Transana Windows Yes April 2019