Software and Qualitative Analysis

6. The First Stage

Creating Codes

There are a wide variety of approaches to creating codes. At one end of the spectrum, in the most purely deductive approaches, the analyst begins with a coding scheme based upon a theory or conceptual framework, and keeps to this scheme throughout the analysis. For example, in studying a particular evidence-based practice in mental health treatment, the analysis might be strictly focused on the elements of that practice. At the other end of the spectrum in the most purely inductive approaches the analyst begins with no codes, starts reading, and develops codes as he or she goes. In either case, a coding scheme can be more complex than a simple list of codes. Coding schemes can be hierarchically structured. For instance, you might have a “top level” code for Weather, a sub-code for the sub-concept of Precipitation, and sub-codes of Precipitation for Rain, Snow, Sleet, etc. Coding schemes can also be linked in non-hierarchical ways. For example, you may have a network of causal relationships among codes, as in a path model.

Figure 3

A Code Hierarchy

A coding scheme of weather example as discussed in text. Weather>Precipitation>Rain, Snow, Hail.

Deductive logic
Reasoning from the general to the specific. In this approach, you begin by specifying a theory. From the theory, you generate hypotheses about what should happen in specific circumstances. If you wish to test the theory, you can collect data to see whether what you hypothesize happens. If it does, the specific data you examine provide support for your theory. The direction of reasoning is often thought of as “top down,” from theory (the general) to data (the specific).
Inductive logic
Reasoning from the specific to the general. In this approach, you begin by examining concrete events or phenomena—your data. From the data, you attempt to identify larger categories of phenomena (or constructs, or variables), and to understand the relationships among them. In other words, you use the data to build theory. The direction of reasoning is often thought of as “bottom up,” from the data (the specific) to theory (the general).