Software and Qualitative Analysis

6. The First Stage

Exercise 1

In this exercise you will:

  1. develop a coding scheme;
  2. code a transcript;
  3. review your coding; and
  4. organize your coding scheme.

Prepositions: As you go through the processes in this exercise, you will naturally begin to form propositions. These provide a starting point for the processes of drawing and verifying conclusions referred to earlier.

Once you start the exercise, read the transcript “Shoe Machinery Worker” to get a feel for what it’s about.

This transcript is from the Works Progress Administration, American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940.  It is part of a searchable, downloadable database of life histories at

"I wish you could see, Mr. Lovett, the town where I lived in Italy. It was called Cartoceto. It was builded on the top of a high hill. All around was a stone wall. Once upon a time this wall protected the town from bandits, from pirates and other enemies.

"You have heard of Carthage? For many years Carthage and Rome were the great rivals. Sometimes Rome was badly beaten. Sometimes the Romans were successful. Finally Hannibal, he was the great general, was completely defeated. The Africans ran away. At Cartoceto, where I was born, they made their last stand. Behind the walls they fired arrows and spears at the Romans. For months they put up a great fight.

"Why should I not know history? In Italy I attended the good schools. In this country I have studied much.

"Thank you, Mr. Lovett. If I did not get a good education would I be the officer in your evening schools? And my fellow Italians have elected me to many positions, because they appreciate learning and wish themselves to become true Americans.

"You are right. The children of Italian immigrants wish most of all to become Americans. They make haste to adopt the American customs and speech. In fact they worry and grieve their parents, who cannot understand or keep pace with them. It is not a little tragic sometimes, -- this conflict between the children and their elders.

"Yes, that is true. But a price must be paid for progress. In this case it is the parents that pay. They adapt themselves slowly to new and strange conditions. That is why we have emphasized adult education. It prevents misunderstanding. Too often the Italian youth seem cruel and disrespectful. The elders appear tyrants and kill-joys to their children.

"We lived first in Portsmouth, N. H. My father worked at the Navy Yard. The next year we moved to Beverly, where the United Shoe Machinery plant was under construction. Already my uncle, Emilo, was a boss there. He was a graduate from an Italian college and had charge of Shantyville. That was the rough village, where the Italian workmen then lived.

"I think I inherited mechanical skill. My grandfather was a smart man and successful. His name was Zefferino Clini, a metal worker. I remember the shop. He made many wagons. He cut his own lumber, which he seasoned for from five to twenty years. He made his own axels, rims and screws. His wagons were made by hand and would last a life time.

"As a boy, I played games outside of the walls of Cartoceto. It was a lovely town. From it you could see the blue ocean eight miles distant. I was only eight when I came here to live.

"My father, in 1905, was a boss carpenter. He worked for the Aberthaw Construction Company. I think Tomasello did the excavating and cement work.

"Sure, I was acquainted with Shantyville. My family did not live there. Mostly the residents were single men. The shanties were built of boards. The roof was covered with tarpaper. They were not plastered inside, but they were clean. They were kept neat and they were comfortable.

"My Uncle, the boss, made many rules for the benefit of the men in Shantyville. Every man must make his bed in the bunk, before breakfast. They must wash their clothes and take turns scrubbing the floors. Always the camp was neat as an American home. Always it was healthful and sanitary.

"Yes, the work was hard but the Italians were very tough. Each man cooked his own supper on the big stove. Sometimes two or three joined together. After supper they played games, made jokes, sang songs. Many of the men had mandolins, guitars, or violins. A visitor to Shantyville heard a lot of fine music.

"Sunday was wash day. The clothes were cleaned. Everywhere on the grass and the trees shirts and blankets were dried.

"No. there was little disturbance. The Italians are not quarrelsome. There was noise, yes; sometimes what you call horse play. These men were young, they had no family ties.

"There was hardly ever any drunkenness. Certainly they drank a little wine. They had some beer. It was against the rules to bring whiskey into camp. Nor do Italians often like intoxicating liquor.

"Perhaps some day I can tell you some interesting stories of Shantytown. I must first exercise my memory.

"The people here in Beverly never did understand the Italians of those days. Very, very slowly, their ignorance is being destroyed. In 1905 they imagined that terrible things were done in Shantyville. The police were given orders to watch closely. People thought the Wops or Dagos, as they called them, were dangerous. They thought they were always ready to draw a knife or stick someone with a stileto. Perhaps they considered the Italians reckless, bloodthirsty and dishonest. If so it was because they read stories of the American shanty towns in California and the West. Compared to them, the camp in Beverly was like a Sunday School. A child or woman could visit there night or day with perfect safety. It is ignorance that causes suspicion and prejudice. It is still ignorance, that makes it hard for Italians to take their proper and natural position in the community. Thank God, conditions are getting better each year."

Step 1 of 4: Develop Code List

Create a rough “start list” of codes, adding them to the Master List by typing them in the box at right, and clicking on the “Add” button. 

Codes should correspond to the big conceptual categories you want to work with. You’ll also want to set the list up so that it will accommodate more specific codes as you go. Remove codes by entering the code number in the space provided and selecting the “Remove” button. Select the “Continue” button to proceed to the next step.

Step 2 of 4: Assign Codes

Drag relevant codes to the box next to the appropriate paragraph. Work with the codes from your start list, and you can also allow more specific codes to emerge as they suggest themselves, adding them to the Master List as necessary. Try to get at least one code on each paragraph, but not more than 4. Select the “Clear All” button to clear all applied codes or select “Skip to Step 3” or “Continue” buttons.

There are 18 paragraphs to code in this step before moving to step 3.

Step 3 of 4: Review Codes
Now assess your first-pass coding using the following questions:

  • Did you code at the right level of specificity?
    • If you have just a couple of codes, they are probably too general, and may lump together concepts which really should be discreet. Try breaking those codes down into subtopics.
    • If you have lots of codes, with only one passage per code, your codes are probably too specific. That is, in giving each passage its own code, you really haven’t determined the larger themes that they represent. See if you can cluster some of the codes to create conceptual categories.
  • Are some of your codes subcategories of more general categories?
  • Do some of your codes need to be split into subcategories?
  • Are some of your codes really subcategories of other codes?
    Select the ”Print” button to print the codes you applied to the paragraphs or “Continue”.

Step 4 of 4: Organize Codes
Consider the revisions you identified in Step 3 and organize your codes hierarchically (i.e., Emotion>sad, happy, joyful) by dragging and dropping them in the order you prefer. This is an example of how you may organize codes. Qualitative software will generally allow you to devise hierarchies and links between codes, and delete or add codes.

A final step in this process would be to recode your transcript based on your newly refined code list.
Select the ”Print” button to print the organized codes you applied to the paragraphs or “Restart”.