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What Is Coding?

Coding is the process of organizing and sorting your data. Codes serve as a way to label,
compile and organize your data. They also allow you to summarize and synthesize what is
happening in your data. In linking data collection and interpreting the data, coding becomes
the basis for developing the analysis. It is generally understood, then, that “coding is
analysis.” Coding is an interpretive technique that both organizes the data and provides a
means to introduce the interpretations of it into certain quantitative methods. Most coding
requires the analyst to read the data and demarcate segments within it, which may be done at
different times throughout the process.[14] Each segment is labeled with a "code" – usually a
word or short phrase that suggests how the associated data segments inform the research
objectives. When coding is complete, the analyst prepares reports via a mix of: summarizing
the prevalence of codes, discussing similarities and differences in related codes across
distinct original sources/contexts, or comparing the relationship between one or more codes.
Code Your Data
Coding can be done in any number of ways, but it usually involves assigning a word, phrase,
number or symbol to each coding category. The user will go through all your textual data
(interview transcripts, direct notes, field observations, etc.) in a systematic way. The ideas,
concepts and themes are coded to fit the categories.
Creating Codes
The process of creating codes can be both pre-set and open. Hybrid method is preferred,
using both these two models. Before beginning data collection and the coding process, it is
good to begin with a “start list” of pre-set codes (often referred to as “a priori codes”). These
initial codes derive from the conceptual framework, list of research questions, problem areas,
etc. The user prior knowledge of the subject matter and your subject expertise will also help
you create these codes. For instance, if you are interviewing MUH owners and managers, you
may already think about the codes “economic issues” or “tenant smoking” or “common
areas” (the list could go on and on. At a later time, the codes “economic issues” and “tenant
smoking” may be collapsed into a larger code or theme of “barriers to policy.”
Pre-Set Codes
A pre-set list can have as little as 10 codes or up to 40-50 codes. Too many codes can create
problem because the person coding can become overwhelmed or make mistakes in the coding
process if there are too many. In creating these codes, it is important to create a “code book,”
which is list of the codes and what they mean.
Emergent Codes
While it is good to begin data collection and coding with pre-set codes, another set of codes
will emerge from reading and analyzing the data. These “emergent codes” are those ideas,
concepts, actions, relationships, meanings, etc. that come up in the data and are different than
the pre-set codes. For instance, in the aforementioned example of interviews of MUH owners
and managers, the issue of tenants smoking medicinal marijuana may have come up. This
may be seen as a tricky legal issue by the owners and managers. It may have been something

In this case. The user place data in the code just as you would file something in a folder. After the initial coding.not coded before data collection and coding began. the text discussing this issue could be coded as “legal issue” (which was probably identified as a start code) and “medicinal marijuana. These are labels that classify items of information. expand and revise the coding categories. So. the code needs to be broken down into sub-codes in order to better organize the data. thus collapsed the codes into a larger theme and can discuss various aspects of onsite learning . down both codes and remarks on a hardcopy as you read it. In many cases. These notes may suggest new interpretations. Coding as a System of Organizing Your Data One easy way to think about coding is to see it as a system to organize the user data. It happens. Meaning. collapse. rather than trying to make your data fit your codes.” Because there’s a good chance that medicinal marijuana was not a start code. The marginal notes will also come in handy when thinking about how the codes fit together. as well as connections with other data. Moreover. number or symbol that you assigned to the item of data in answering such questions is a code. Alternatively. what one expects to find in the data is not there. the coding scheme will be refined. In essence. as part of the process of coding. We recommend using words or phrases as codes and in your marginal notes for later ease of analysis (sometimes numbers and symbols can be confusing). Think of this process as cutting and pasting the quotes on a poster board. it is added to the code book as an emergent code. Moreover. Coding “Notes” Finally. some codes simply do not work or conflate other ideas from different codes. A systematic way to code data is to ask yourself the following questions as you read the text: What is this saying? What does it represent? What is this an example of? What do I see is going on here? What is happening? What kind of events are at issue here? What is trying to be conveyed? The word. you will add. This is especially true of the pre-set codes. if the users are mindful of what is growing out of the data. the user's notes will usually point toward questions and issues for you to look into as you code and collect more data. it is a personal filing system. Oftentimes. Word files need to be created based on your codes. sometimes codes flourish in a way that there is too much data. it is important to jot down notes of the user reactions and ideas that emerge. These ideas are important and vital to the analytic process. Refining Your Codes It is important to note that as your data are coded. The rule of thumb for coding is to make the codes fit the data. the “surprise” emergent codes form the basis of interesting stories and may indeed become part of the major storyline told in the user evaluation.

etc. and includes data collected. and interpreted by the researcher. which will form the basic units of your analysis. Teaching methods would become a concept. Axial coding In open coding. Use different colored highlights to distinguish each broad concept and category. and these form the outline of the report. identifies questions to be addressed.) would become categories – all highlighted the same color. and two of your categories are tutoring and group projects. Create a table Transfer final concepts and categories into a data table. and other things related (types. you are breaking down the data into first level concepts. or master headings. In axial coding. and second-level categories. if interviewees consistently talk about teaching methods. or something related to a teaching method. to help make sure that you have identified all important aspects. To examine the latter. and suggests that you may need a new category labeled “supportive environment.Transfer these into a brief outline. you would use the same color highlight. What conditions caused or influenced concepts and categories? What is/was the social/political context? or What are the associated effects or consequences? For example. Have your highlights ready for revision/addition. Confirm that your concepts and categories accurately represent interview responses. you might ask. The table below shows the sections commonly found in these types of reports. analyzed. then explained them after the table. you are looking for distinct concepts and categories in the data.TYPES OF CODING Open coding At this first level of coding. if one of your concepts is Adaptive Teaching.” Axial coding is merely a more directed approach at looking at the data. Researchers often use highlights to distinguish concepts and categories. Types of research report A research report is a completed study that reports an investigation or exploration of a problem.” This discusses the context of the concept and/or categories. you were focused primarily on the text to define concepts and categories. Note how the researcher listed the major categories. with concepts being main headings and categories being subheadings. What you should have at the end of this stage are transcripts with 3-5 different colors in lots of highlighted text. They therefore contain different information and structures. Reports are written for different purposes. including headings and subheadings. an axial code might be a phrase like “our principal encourages different teaching methods. Explore how your concepts and categories are related. For example. each time an interviewee mentions teaching methods. or subheadings. . you are using your concepts and categories while re-reading the text. In other words. This is a very effective way to organize results and/or discussion in a research paper.

Short report      Science report Title page Introduction Discussion Recommendations References         Title page Introduction Method & materials Results Discussion Conclusion Appendices References Business report          Engineering report           Title page Executive summary Table of contents Introduction Discussion Conclusion Recommendations Appendices References Research report Title page Executive summary (optional) Introduction Objectives Analysis Discussion Recommendations & action plan Conclusion Appendices References           Title page Executive summary Introduction Method / methodology Results / findings Discussion Conclusions Recommendations Appendices Bibliography FORMAT OF REPORT WRITING Title page     Table of contents   Executive summary  (Abstract)   Title of report Name of author / student Organisation / course Date Lists the content of the report Page numbers Summarises the whole  report in a logical order Outlines purpose. conclusions & recommendations  Written last mainly in Are the aims of the purpose of the research clearly stated? Are the results summarised? Are the conclusions & recommendations . research methods.  findings.

background & purpose Defines terms & sets limits of the research outlined?     Method   Results / findings    Discussion   Is the purpose of the research clearly stated? Is the context & background explained? Are the limits of the study outlined? Are the important concepts & terms defined? Explains the research  methodology and methods used In scientific reports. tables etc Facts only .no interpretation Are the results clearly summarised / stated? Is visual data used where appropriate? Interprets & evaluates results Analyses results — draws together  Are the results explained & interpreted? Are the results linked to other similar research & to each other?  Conclusion  Brief summary of findings  Are the results summarised? Recommendations  Suggest suitable changes / solutions Action plan for recommendations if required  Do the recommendations suggest possible solutions / actions / pathways etc  Glossary  List of terms. Introduction   past tense Should be no more than one page Outlines context. eg  graphs. this would detail the experimental procedures Are the research techniques / methods clearly outlined? Presents the findings /  results Can use visual data. eg acronyms used .

the information. If for example. questionnaires etc  PURPOSE OF WRITING REPORT     To transmit information to teachers: to show that the writer is thoroughly acquainted with the material. be through and complete. therefore: be concise. be thorough and complete. A variable is a characteristic that can have more than 1 value. (informing. and/or the procedures. therefore. An article's title is often the first section read. and produce a report styled to fit the needs of your purpose. It should illustrate the main topic of the research study. . It is beneficial to establish the purpose of your report before you start writing. etc. JOURNAL ARTICLE Tutorial: A typical research article from a journal has 7 main parts: 1 Title 2 Abstract 2 Introduction 3 Methods 4 Results. guiding) and focus your writing on explaining the details. be concise To transmit information to decision makers: experts and technicians. Recognize what your report is for. which will allow your reader to comprehend the processes that you are describing. and 5 Discussion 6 References The Title.References or bibliography  List of all cited references Appendix  Attachments. eg surveys. you want to write an instructional report for a team of colleagues. including the important variables. instructing. and laypeople To help them make decisions and act on the results presented. you know that you must focus your writing on providing clear concise instructions. status in a family. type of behavior. executives. so that you can think clearly on the subject. Most titles include both the independent and dependent variable. Examples of psychological variables include intelligence.

) Introducing the problem. Some students get confused reading this section because it is hard to distinguish "previous research" from important information about the "current study". we will take a closer look at the basic structure of a typical introduction. The Introduction The Introduction serves as the body of the paper. For example. in approximately 120 words. It begins with a broad statement of the problem under investigation and then proceeds to narrow the focus to the specific hypothesis or hypotheses of the study. is an important part of the journal article.The Abstract The Abstract is a brief summary of the entire article. (Keep in mind that not all published articles may have all of these sections. This subsection will be the longest of the introduction. the author needs to review past research on the same topic. The abstract usually contains a concise summary of (a) the article's problem under investigation or the hypothesis. The paper should begin by broadly specifying the research problem or point of the study. When people search for articles on-line. and (f) implications of the study. (c) brief review of methodology. This section is usually 1 . In order to accomplish these tasks. they will only use the article's title and abstract to make the decision of the article's relevance and contribution to their research. The purpose of this section is to introduce the reader to the overall issue/problem that is being tested and to provide justification for the hypothesis or hypotheses. (d) statistical analyses. if I were to state the hypothesis "rats will press on a bar faster and longer if they are given a food reward each time than if they are given no reward". He or she must provide a rationale or case for why that hypothesis should be tested. the perfect article may go unnoticed because of a poorly written abstract. It contains prior research studies relevant to the current study. I would not get very far writing my introduction. and as such. (b) pertinent information on the participants. (e) results of the study. A researcher cannot merely create a hypothesis and test it. a description relating the hypothesis and experimental design to the problem and the theoretical implications of the research. Background literature. I . Therefore.2 paragraphs long and may include the research questions(= general questions asked by the study). discussing their findings. consequently. Its purpose is to provide the reader with a quick review of the article's content.

Think of this section as being a recipe with an exact description for others to follow. level of education. Keep in mind that sometimes the hypotheses will be spelled out for you. species b) strain number or location of supplier c) number. and physiological condition d) ethical guidelines on treatment and handling . Purpose. Each hypothesis should have a clear rationale describing the logic behind the predictions. An overarching goal of science is the replication of research. Method Section. the rationale for that purpose. The previous subsection should naturally lead up to this point. the background literature section prevents people from 'reinventing the wheel'. rationale. A helpful way to see an introduction is to view the author as a lawyer who must convince you. socioeconomic status) c) description of agreements and payments made d) statement of ethical principles used in relation to the participants For nonhuman subjects: a) genus. The purpose of the Method section is to provide a detailed description of how the study was conducted. then every reader has a right to be extremely suspicious and regard my study as unscientific.g. Likewise. sex. if I make the bold claim "women are genetically superior to men" and provide no background literature to support such a claim or hypothesis. nor does it add anything to the "reinforcement" literature. age. There should not be a "surprise hypothesis" or something that was not covered under the background subsection. and the specific hypothesis or hypotheses. A reader should be able to understand what is being tested and why.g. at random?) b) major demographic characteristics (e. ethnicity. It is in the Method section that authors need to specify their participants and procedures to allow others to duplicate the study. race.would realize quickly that my hypothesis is not new. that the proposed hypotheses improve upon past research and have some importance. This section is usually divided into subparts: Participants/Subjects (Participants is the term used when humans are involved in the study while Subjects is the term used when animals are in the study. the judge/jury. weight.) This subsection contains information such as: a) number of participants and how they were selected & assigned (e. The final subsection of the introduction includes formally stating the study's purpose. they may be listed as predictions or "we believe such and such will happen". The "evidence" is the review of previous research.. sex. Therefore. other times.. and hypothesis. age.

writers usually discuss similarities and differences between the current findings and findings of previous research. however. tends to become more important once one develops further as a scientific psychologist. and evaluates the results of the study. Authors typically report results of each hypothesis. interprets. Reference Section. using no statistics.This subsection allows readers to make comparisons of samples across different studies & to make judgments of generalizability of results. Additional analyses may be described if initial results suggested a new direction. check with your professor to see how you should treat this section. located at the back of an article. The Results section is the statistical reporting of the data. Indeed. It lists. a discussion section usually ends with the writer providing directions for future research. Materials/Apparatus/Measures All physical aspects of the research design are described in this subsection. Therefore. Tables and figures are often used to convey important information in an organized manner. Its purpose is to describe what was found after statistically analyzing the data. in alphabetical order. It lists everything that was used in the study to help others replicate it . Any weaknesses of the current study are also reviewed and suggestions are made on improving the research design. The review of the results is done in everyday. often a copy of the information is included as an Appendix. Next. the empirical studies mentioned throughout the paper. Finally. Opposite to the Introduction. Procedure This subsection provides a detailed account of what happened in the study Results. in order as they appear in the introduction to assist your comprehension. The Discussion section reviews. the discussion section begins with a narrow focus on the findings and then proceeds more broadly by drawing conclusions until it ends with future implications. . nontechnical language. It is beyond the scope of this tutorial to provide instruction on how to interpret the various statistical analyses that might be presented in articles. This section may not be fully understandable until you have had a statistics and/or research methods course. Discussion sections typically begin by listing the hypothesis or hypotheses and then stating if the results supported or contradicted the hypothesis or hypotheses. some statistical analyses might not be understood until you take graduate courses! The results section. There is a specific format that must be used to write references. When an author uses new materials or measures for the study. The Discussion.: The last important section of an article is the list of references.