Are you a student who's doing qualitative research? Already recorded and transcribed interviews for your thesis or project? Now the question is - how to put your freshly made transcript in good use? Right, the next step in your journey is qualitative coding. Thank goodness, it is much easier than it sounds. If you associate the word “coding” with HTML5 or similar tools - breathe out. Interview coding is much more straightforward and in 10 minutes you’ll know your way around it, both theoretically and practically.

Start the countdown and let’s get started.

 Let’s begin by understanding what we mean by coding in qualitative research, what’s the use of it and what types of coding are out there. A code can be any label (number, figure, symbol, word, phrase), that you assign to a part of your text, that represents a certain theme. Generally, a code should be precise and summarize the main idea behind a certain theme. Let’s review a simple example, imagine we study an article about different views on American culture. Although this passage is quite broad and can be coded in many different ways, we opted for “American culture as “the American dream“ for the sake of keeping it simple.

Example: American culture is largely built on the notion of “American dream”. This concept entails a social ideal, in which everyone is able to achieve success through hard work. 

Coding your data helps you to identify the main points of interest in your research documents. Additionally, coding makes it easier to organize large chunks of information and share it with other people.

What types of coding exist?

There are 2 approaches to coding your data: inductive and deductive. You’re probably familiar with these terms, but let’s do a quick recap. If you have a set of ideas and assumptions that guide your research - you can develop preliminary coding categories and search for them in your interview data. This way, you’re testing theory and thus using a deductive coding approach. On the other hand, if you start your coding process from scratch and aim to identify themes to create a theory - you’re using inductive coding. No matter which approach you’re using, the coding procedure remains largely the same. 

How to apply qualitative coding using the software?

Before we proceed, there is an important point to be made. You don’t have to use the software to perform qualitative coding. All the steps mentioned below can be done the old-fashioned way of using pen and paper. The software provides additional convenience and potentially saves time, but it’s not essential. 

Time to show you the step-by-step instructions on how to code interviews. In our example, we’re using a software package called QDA Miner Lite (can be downloaded for free). However, these steps look very similar in other tools as well.  If you want to look at other tools for analyzing qualitative data, check out this post for a nice overview.

First of all, open the QDA Miner, create a new project and select the file (s) you’re going to work with. 

In our case, we are going to use a template of a job interview transcript, that we’ll use for coding. In this example, we’ve chosen a broad coding category called “Candidate Bio”. It is further split into more precise codes, such as “Personal Motivation”, “Qualification” and “Perseverance”. 

Depending on the research method; you either search for text, that corresponds to your codes or you develop codes based on the patterns and correlations you found in the text. 

-Go to Code → Add → Choose a code name and a category (“Under”)

-You can highlight your codes in different colors

When you’re done, your file should look like this. 

Great job! If you’ve successfully coded all the themes you want to cover in your study - go ahead and start analyzing them. Look for correlations, patterns, and inconsistencies, and form a meaningful conclusion.

What else can I do to analyze my text? (Bonus tips)

1) You might want to look for certain words and phrases and assign a specific code to them. 

-Go to Retrieval → Text Retrieval → Type your word or phrase under “Search for text”

-Make sure the search unit is set to “sentence”

2) You can also do the opposite and search for sentences, that contain a specific code. 

-Go to Retrieval → Coding Retrieval → Choose the code (s) of your choice

-Run the search

-You can also experiment with search conditions, but we’ll leave it for the time being

3) You can assess how often a specific code was used.

-Go to Analyze → Coding Frequency → Select the codes

QDA Miner will generate a simple table that shows you a number of times and % of cases, indicating the use of code(s). 

What’s next? 

If you’ve read this far, you should get the basic idea behind qualitative coding in theory and how it is implemented in practice. We hope that you can use these tips for coding your own interviews. And if this topic has captured your interest and you want to become a real coding professional, the book “The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers” comes highly recommended. 

In case you don’t have the transcription of your interview yet - make it automatically in a matter of minutes with AmberScript. Check out our offerings now!