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Coding is a euphemism for the sorting and labelling which is part of the process of analysis.

Outline: Coding as part of the ongoing process of interpretive analysis. First steps, close exploration of
data, and initial line by line coding. Memo-writing as initial stages of writing up. Focused coding and
focused memos. Keeping good records. How to find some examples of coding in practice.

Coding is analysis. To review a set of field notes, transcribed or synthesized, and to dissect them
meaningfully, while keeping the relations between the parts intact, is the stuff of analysis. (Miles and
Huberman, 1994: 56)

Coding is a euphemism for the sorting and labelling which is part of the process of analysis. It involves
close exploration of collected data and assigning it codes, which may be names, categories, concepts,
theoretical ideas or classes. It also involves writing memos or thoughts and ideas, associated with given
codes, elaborating and linking codes, and thinking about what they mean in the context of a broader
argument or story. It is the first step in analysis. In ethnographic analysis the ethnographer will normally
have started to make some sense of it all as she went along. She will have thought about the research
questions, decided who to ask what questions, and where to do the next piece of participant
observation or interview, will have started to pull together disparate threads and pursued theoretically
informed leads in the pursuit of an answer to the initial puzzle. By the time she reaches the analysis
phase, she should have some idea of what it is she wants to convey, what story will be told, what
pictures painted, and for which audiences.

Nevertheless, there comes a time when something has to be done with all the data collected, and most
ethnographers find this overwhelming and daunting. One of the first stages of analysis involves moving
from a chronological order to another kind of order. Fieldnotes, interview transcripts, and other kinds
of data have been collected chronologically, as research progressed, but it is unlikely that they will be
presented in this way. Analysis therefore involves some kind of sorting and sorted sections need
coding or labelling. Data are coded into categories that suit the ethnographer's requirements, and
these can be thematic or descriptive or both. How this is achieved involves a creative, reflexive
(ref lexivity) and interpretive (interpretivism) interaction between the researcher, the data, the
literature, theoretical ideas that framed the research as well as those that emerge from close analysis
of the data, and the researcher's feelings, emotions, experiences, and memory. There is no formula for
coding ethnographic data (although, increasingly, researchers are trying to develop prescriptive
techniques such as the Framework Approach described by Ritchie, et al. 2003).

It is crucial to consider the purpose of coding. It is not so that the data can be minutely explored in
search of instances of phenomena; it does not amount to counting occurrences or utterances. Data
were collected by someone who decided what to write down and when, how often to note something,


to discovering new ideas or fresh insights. or however) and making notes about them. the background whispers. interview transcripts and data that were collected simultaneously. until it seems nothing new is emerging. It is important. reading. doubts. emotions. Most computer sof tware programs allow this. However. Fieldnotes are not direct records of events and interview transcripts are not all there was to say on a subject. and puzzles. and that memory remains a powerful research tool. It may yield expected and unexpected analytic categories. when coding. but iterative-inductive. flashes of inspiration. what the ethnographer was thinking when she decided to use a given code. and building until patterns emerge that make some sense. That is to say. As Ian Dey (1993) suggests. between events. Using a computer to count how many words are said on a certain topic or how many times something happened will simply count those things the ethnographer thought relevant to note or to code into categories as the data were sorted. OPEN CODING AND OPEN MEMOS This first examination (whether it occurs in the field or later) will generate any number of ideas and thoughts. at least initially and on a range of data. highlighting. aligning. Robert Emerson and colleagues (1995) recommend that this close analysis be undertaken line by line. which may even challenge the initial research focus. Coding is not content analysis. minutely examine. so that the ethnographer can begin to make links across categories. Nothing should be chopped up and divorced from its context. paragraphs or events should be assigned to a certain category without removing them from the rest of the fieldnotes. Essentially we are interpreting the data. the ethnographer examines the data minutely. However. re- aligning. questions. Open coding and writing open memos means jotting down labels (in the margins. or take the ethnographer in new directions. and among individuals. or that each time two people meet. what codes emerge will depend to some extent on the ethnographer's research interests. and in the process all sorts of patterns emerge. Open coding is essentially inductive (inductive and deductive). also. READING On the other hand. using a computer.credoreference. we seek patterns in data like putting together building blocks: moving. The emotions and experiences that accompany the observation of an event . while something else that happened a few times was written about at length. wade in. relating them to wider https://search.and when to ignore it. The memos are notes by and for the ethnographer expanding on these labels: where they came from.none of these may be recorded and yet any or all may prove to be illuminating at this stage of analysis. It will be useful to go back to the initial research question and remember what that was and how it developed as research progressed. what they might mean. the background noise. it should also be remembered that certain things will never have been recorded.com/content/entry/sageuketh/coding/0 . for example. Something that happened numerous times may never have been recorded. it is not naively inductive. sometimes word by word and line by line. We might notice. that every time one topic is discussed the subject gets subtly changed by the respondent. This does not make the latter more important. that the data are viewed at this stage as a whole.the smells. These should be openly coded and then expanded with the use of memos. This might only come out with close examination of transcripts and fieldnotes. which means that the ethnographer is open to surprises. participants' comments. and theoretical/epistemological framework. the misunderstandings that came clear later . The labels are names or phrases that label phenomena. the sounds. they use one of a possible range of greetings that may reveal something about their relationship. and ask questions about the data. The first step then is to closely explore. but it can also be achieved by hand using multiple photocopies or coloured pens. In other words.

such as 'making friends' or 'hiding emotions'. especially analysis. Themes will emerge that the ethnographer will want to write about in more depth and this will lead to returning to the data and re-coding in the light of these more focused themes. (1995) invaluable for discussing the concept of coding. or whatever else seemed important at the time (see f ieldnotes). apparently unrelated themes. DATA COLLECTION FOR CODING Given the demands of coding as described above.. photographs. computer software. but determines themes to work up into chapters or papers. This ensures a balance between inductive and deductive theorising and is similar to the techniques described by grounded theory. music. generating unlimited. Emerson et al. Since the process of open coding can be overwhelming at times. FOCUSED CODING AND FOCUSED MEMOS The ethnographer rarely writes up everything that emerges from the data.credoreference. events. and other data. Gradually. Charmaz (2006). and Miles and Huberman (1994) provide some concrete examples of actual coding in practice which readers might find useful. Emerson et al. first as an aid to analysis and. eventually. texts of myths. and then moving on to more focused coding. term 'integrative memos') really begin to elaborate ideas and focus themes. the same data can be coded very differently by different people and for different purposes. and/or insights are explored in more depth and links made between them. making links between disparate codes and sets of ideas. Memos are the opportunity to work out ideas in more depth. gossip. theories. It is where the ethnographer begins to move from data and labels and link to other ideas.com/content/entry/sageuketh/coding/0 . 2002). 1995. on the other hand. generalisation. Focused memos (or what Emerson et al. This can include audio and video tape. and acknowledges the role of the fieldworker at every stage of the research process. it is essential to keep good records that can be easily put into a computer or sorted and coded by hand. has more recently accepted the more constructive nature of the social world and therefore of social theory. However. memory. with a specific analytical argument (or story or picture) increasingly in mind. (1995). Open coding and memo-writing involve some level of generalisation or thinking out of the specific instance to a more general theme or concepts. before coming back to further phases of open coding for brief periods on new sections of the data. to present to an audience. Their chapter recognises the debt the authors owe to techniques used by grounded theorists. Ethnographers who bear the needs of analysis in mind as they conduct research collect data in a directed way. See als o: analysis. Kathy Charmaz (2006). EXAMPLES OF CODING IN PRACTICE I found the section on 'processing fieldnotes' in Emerson et al. (1995) advise beginning with systematic open coding on some of the data. coding and contextualising as they go along. For this reason. categories.frameworks and broader processes (Ezzy. It is more common to regret not having collected a certain piece of information or noted down some crucial details than to regret having too much data. in the end it is far better to attempt this process in practice than to read (or write) about it. analysis leads to reduced sets of codes and memos and longer written pieces. Open coding leads to focused coding and focused memos where the same ideas. but argues that grounded theorists tend to attempt to 'discover' theory. and it is crucial to consider it in relation to all other stages of the fieldwork process. grounded theory: writing REFERENCES General https://search.

Emerson. Ritchie. I. D. M. A.com/content/entry/sageuketh/coding/0 . Miles.. J. W. London: Routledge. (2006) Constructing Grounded Theory. (2003) 'Carrying out qualitative analysis'. pp. A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis. in Ritchie. (eds) Qualitative Research Practice. Fretz. R. B. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. London: Sage. © Karen O'Reilly 2009 https://search. I.General Charmaz. and Huberman. An Expanded Sourcebook. Practice and Innovation.credoreference. and Lewis. M. London: Sage. London: Routledge. L. (1995) Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. J. Spencer. and Shaw. (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis. Dey. London: Sage. L. (1993) Qualitative Data Analysis. L. 219-62... R. and O'Connor. J. (2002) Qualitative Analysis. M. Ezzy. K.

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