Coding in Content Analysis

1. Produce a Coding Manual

A good coding manual is indispensable. AvoSrf the temptation to save time by not producing one or by producing only the skeleton of one. The time spent in being complete will be more than repaid by making the coders’ task easier and faster and, especially, by ensuring coding of the highest quality.

2. Train the Coders Thoroughly

Good training is essential. Even experienced coders need to learn about the aims of the evaluation, the material to be coded, and the coding system. They may also need training in the software. Inexperiencedcoders will additionally need guidance in good coding practice-keeping proper records, adopting tactics for avoiding errors, knowing when to seek advice, and so on. All coders need practice in applying the coding system to examples of the material to be coded.

3. Pretest the Coding System

Pretests can be carried out in conjunction with training. Pretests with the persons who will do the final coding affords the opportunity to fix problems by redefining variables, especially the categories. Coders-in-training can give direct feedback on the difficulties they have with the coding system. There is no substitute. Pretests also provide a means for making preliminary estimates of reliability. Indeed, actual coding should not begin until reliability is satisfactory.

4. Develop Management Procedures

A single person should be given overall responsibility for the document coding. The best choice is usually someone who has coding experience and who will also perform some of the coding as a head coder. This person should develop detailed procedures for keeping track of documents, assigning them to coders, and maintaining a log of the process. Usually the head coder also provides the first level of troubleshooting: responding to queries from coders, resolving ambiguities about categories, and making at least preliminary decisions to remove problematic documents from the database.

Source: GAO (2013), Content Analysis: A Methodology for Structuring and Analyzing Written Material: PEMD-10.3.1, BiblioGov.

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