Bailey, C. A. (2007). A Guide to Qualitative Field Research 2nd Edition.
Chapter 9: Coding, Memoing, and Descriptions
Researchers spend 2 to 5 times more analyzing data than on data collection. Qualitative research takes longer than qualitative research. Regardless of the differences, some qualitative procedures are also used for quantitative analysis.
Quantitative data becomes meaningful once it is organized and run through several statistical procedures. Researchers use SPSS software to run statistical tests including t-tests, ANOVAs, and multiple regressions that are appropriate for hypothesis testing. Determining statistical significance is based on the results of the data analysis process.
Qualitative researchers collect data in the form of words. This type of data is then organized in a way that gives words contextual meaning. The analytical strategies used in the research process are determined by research questions. Qualitative researchers struggle more with data analysis because of the sheer number of research pages to study.
Other factors that complicate the data analysis process include:
- Deciding which technique to use
- Not all techniques mutually exclusive
- Subtle differences exist between techniques
- Sometimes more than one technique is required
- Different presentation styles complicate the analysis and final manuscript presentation process
- Enormous amounts of data collected during fieldwork
Most analytical procedures feature coding and memoing. Coding is a technique used to organize data into smaller sections. Initial coding, which is commonly referred to as open coding, is the process of repetitively reading and organizing numerous sources of information into more practicable parts, which are used during the later stages of analysis. Although all collected data should be read, not all collected data will be coded.
Focused coding, also referred as axial coding, is the process of organizing the number of original codes by merging comparable data sources into larger categories.
Being familiar with research topics and having discussions about the research analysis process are strategies for improving coding. Both processes serve to clarify thoughts and to gain insight.
Memoing, which is the process of writing memos to oneself regarding key findings gained through reflection, occurs in conjunction with the coding. Memoing and coding are repetitive processes (p. 133). Memoing, like coding, also requires the researcher to ask questions and seek answers specific to data.
Computers are used by qualitative researchers for various tasks including note-taking, coding, data linking, memoing, data storage/retrieving, writing reports, etc. Various software programs including ATLAS and HyperRESEARCH perform coding, memoing, and other qualitative research tasks. Bailey recommends that beginners do not use “computer-aided technology” (p. 136).
The descriptions process involves the detailed writing of the setting, exchanges/communications, and observations that transpired over an extended time period (p. 136). The purpose of descriptions is to answer ‘ “reporter’s questions” ’ including the who, what, where, and why of things (p. 136). Thick descriptions are in-depth descriptions of concepts/topics of study which help provide meaning to the reader or observer.
- In your opinion, is data analysis more of an art than a technique? Explain.
- What type of research will you be conducting (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method) and why?
- Describe examples when you coded information for the purpose of systematically organizing products and/or services?
- Do you view coding and/or focused coding as an analytical process or a mechanical process? Explain.
- Describe instances when you used memoing for research projects? What were the pros and cons of this process?
- Have you participated in an event, or read or produced a piece literature, where thick descriptions were necessary to grasp or express the true meaning of the experience/messages being conveyed? Please explai