How to Code Qualitative Research

Coding of qualitative research is necessary to make sense of the data collected. In coding, the researcher labels and organizes all the collected qualitative data and then describes the relationships between the identified concepts. For example, if you are coding customer feedback, you should label the words, figures, or phrases which are recurring and represent essential concepts in the responses. Since words and phrases are easy to remember, it is advisable to use them as labels.

Qualitative research coding is part of the thematic analysis of the qualitative data analysis. In thematic analysis, themes from the text are extracted by examining the words and sentence structure.

What is qualitative data analysis?

Qualitative data analysis is the examining to understand the qualitative data you have and how to utilize it. On the other hand, qualitative data is non-numerical and unstructured data acquired directly from the source. Using customer feedback as an example, qualitative data is the exact, unedited feedback, reviews, complaints, customer interviews, and open-ended responses derived in surveys.

Types of qualitative data analysis

  1. Content analysis

Content analysis of qualitative data involves the labeling, tagging, and thematic analysis of the data. It is used to identify the existence of some particular words, concepts, or themes in qualitative data. To have a deeper understanding, you can combine the analysis results with behavioral data.

  1. Narrative analysis

This type of qualitative data analysis helps the researcher understand the principal events and their effect on the outcome. For example, some interviews or field works may have a background story. Consider the scenario of selecting a product, consuming it, analyzing the product’s quality, and deciding whether to repurchase it.

  1. Discourse analysis

This type analyses the opinions of people from a social and cultural perspective. You can rely on discourse analysis when you want to build and strengthen a brand.

  1. Framework analysis

Having a framework is critical when using qualitative data analysis. Framework analysis is mostly used in research with set questions, limited time, and pre-designed samples, such as applied policy research.

The importance of qualitative data coding

Qualitative data coding makes analyzing customer feedback easier. When you assign specific codes to words, numbers, and phrases used in customers’ responses, it helps to identify the purpose of the response and better analyze the survey outcomes.

Data coding and other qualitative data analysis practices are employed in research to ensure data-driven decision-making centered on customer feedback.

Coding also helps to measure the common concepts in customer feedback.

Automated vs. Manual Coding of Qualitative Data

There are two main categories of coding qualitative data. They are automated and manual coding.

  1. Automated coding

In automating your coding, you can rely on thematic analysis software. This software uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing in qualitative data coding and then breaks them into themes/concepts.

Using thematic analysis software saves a lot of time and energy. The benefits include:

  • No need for advanced theme/category setup
  • The machines learn on their own, so no need to train the algorithm
  • Easy to identify themes you missed
  1. Manual coding

Researchers have adopted different methods for manual coding. However, standard manual coding takes the following form:

  • Choose between deductive or inductive coding.
  • Examine the data to know how it looks like, then assign your first set of codes.
  • Go through your data carefully and meticulously to code as much as you can. Ensure the codes are in detail 
  • Label your codes and figure, taking into consideration your coding frame.
  • At this point, you can tell which themes are recurring and act on them.

Deductive Coding

Deductive coding, also called concept-driven coding, is when you start your coding with already planned codes. The codes are then assigned to a new qualitative data. This form of manual coding saves time, and you are certain that your preferred themes are coded. That notwithstanding, you should also consider other essential themes to avoid bias.

What is Inductive Coding?

With inductive coding, you start from the basics with no predefined codes. You create the codes according to the qualitative data you have available. With this, you have to

  1. Break the qualitative dataset into smaller parts.
  2. Read some parts of the data.
  3. Create codes that cover those areas.
  4. Apply the codes after going over the sample.
  5. Read another set of data, then apply the codes for the first sample.
  6. Identify the areas that the codes don’t match or need additional codes.
  7. Create new codes using the second sample.
  8. Recode all responses
  9. Repeat the procedure from step 5 until all your data are coded.

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