Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Qualitative coding: As I memo, I think

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: ,
LiveScribe memo booklet

One way of taking memos; I've been using Atlas-TI's memo feature

I am in the third iteration of coding—starting a fourth tomorrow. Whenever I start a new iteration, it seems overwhelming. And, I only just start to feel comfortable after I have already coded three-quarters of the transcripts. Upon the pilot transcript and the first iteration of coding, I used memos spartanly. I didn’t want to clutter my workspace. Rather, I was interested in just getting the codes added.

However, I have slowly allowed myself more and more latitude with memos. And, upon the third time through, it has become clear that memoing helps me to work through the thought process of why I am coding each segment in the manner I have. Many times, I have selected a code, dragged it onto the segment of text. Then, while memoing, I realize that it’s not quite right. As I memo, I think.

As I memo, I also see greater links with segments that I had previously coded separately. I can see better how they interrelate and should be considered as parts of a greater whole. This might seem a bit cryptic, but it is easy to code each sentence or paragraph—relying on the visual aspects of the text as a cue for when each code begins and ends. This is not necessarily the way to code–at least not for my phenomenographic purposes. (I believe we mentioned similar concerns with coding in the article referenced below.) I am interested in the meaning aspects of the text.  As I memo, I articulate my thoughts on the segment, and find myself better able to conceptualize the connections between the segments, between the segments and the transcript within which they appear, and between the segments and the collection of transcripts in the project.

A major advantage of using memos is that it is a record of thought. And, by retracing thoughts, codes can be reviewed, kept, modified, or changed completely. When there is a large quantity of data, time will elapse between the coding of each segment. It is nearly impossible to remember how each decision was made. Having a record of thought processes it extremely important. I have even included memos indicating my own shifting from one decision to another by comments such as, “I have decided to code this segment as X. Hmmm . . . no, I think I will code it this way instead . . . because this part of the segment indicates . . .” Being able to trace my hesitance, indecision, changes of mind helps in the final evaluations/decisions.

Recommendation: use memos; use them often.


Garrison, D., Cleveland-Innes, M., Koole, M., & Kappelman, J. (2006). Revisiting methodological issues in transcript analysis: Negotiated coding and reliability. The Internet and Higher Education, 9(1), 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2005.11.001

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