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Software and Qualitative Analysis

6. The First Stage

Coding

You may also look at pictures, listen to audio, or watch video. In each of those cases, however, the operations are essentially the same. The discussion here will continue to refer to text, and the reader is encouraged to reflect on how these processes would transfer to other media. For example, instead of selecting a passage of text, you might mark a region on a graphic, or a time-segment of an audio or video file.

Coding

WHY: Because you have to be able to pull the important information out and collect it together.

The purpose of coding is to make it possible to organize your data by topic. In short, you read through the text (see box), and when you come across a passage that has a meaning you want to pay attention to (let’s say the respondent says something expressing their hopefulness), you mark that passage—usually by drawing a bracket in the margin—and write the name of a code or codes that represent the meaning you have found here. In essence, you are labeling, or indexing, that passage of text, marking it with and connecting it to the conceptual category it belongs to. Researchers who carry out this procedure on paper will often later cut up a copy of the transcript, and place all the passages that relate to a particular conceptual category (e.g., hopefulness) together into a folder. Computer programs for analyzing qualitative data allow you to create these collections in real time.

Figure 2

Coding text using the program Atlas.ti

Shoe Factory Study example of coding in Atlas software

Source: The Coming of Machines, Copy - 1 1938-9 Mass. 1/17/39 8, Name Jane K. Leary Informant John Healey, Subject The Shoeworker of Lynn