January: Coding Coding Coding

Again, please forgive me for the lateness of my posts — I’m almost caught up now!

January was a hard month in terms of my thesis.  It was definitely the most difficult for me, mostly because I was in the middle of a process that I had never done before.  Never having done any sort of qualitative or sociological research before, the process of coding interviews was very difficult.  Basically, I had to comb through each interview transcript and highlight sections of text (words, utterances, or sentences) that corresponded to two letter codes that I had come up with.  For example, “CB” stood for community-building, which was a theme in many of my participants’ classrooms.  Anytime anyone mentioned anything to do with community-building, I marked it with a code. I ended up with 22 two-letter codes, and my interview transcripts were marked up with what seemed like nonsense.

From there, I had to create something called a conceptual memo for each participant.  Again, never having done any research before, this was also a new process for me.  I wrote about 2.5-3 pages single spaced for five participants, totaling 18 pages. In these pages, I basically summarized what I found on each participant, including both their interview and observational data.  Using the two-letter codes I came up with before, I was able to look across participants to find similar themes.  These conceptual memos were very interesting for me to write: pulling together all of the important information about each participant was incredibly useful, and I used so much of it when I began writing chapter 4 of my thesis.

Though January was a hard month in terms of learning new research processes, it definitely paid off.  I am now currently finishing writing my “findings” chapter — more next time!