Textual material can be coded directly on the computer or it can be coded manually and transferred clerically to electronic media. With the latter option, a coder works with hard-copy documents and simply marks the passages with a pencil or colored marker. Training requirements are minimal.2
Some content analysis software programs make it relatively easy to code directly from the computer keyboard. A document is displayed on the screen, and the coder enters codes directly into the text. The possible disadvantage of computer coding is that the coders must be trained to use the software. 3
At least two methods are used for transferring manual codes to computer files. With some content analysis programs, the manual codes are entered from the keyboard just as if they had been entered directly in the first place. Entering manual codes electronically means that computer entry time is added directly to the manual coding time. Some programs such as Textbase Alpha, however, offer a shortcut data entry procedure for material that has been manually coded.
The best choice between coding options depends upon the material to be coded, hardware and software availability, and the experience and preference of the coders. If coders feel more confident working with hard-copy documents, then manual coding followed by one of the shortcut computer entry procedures might be preferable. If they are comfortable with direct computer entry, then overall time may be saved.
Source: GAO (2013), Content Analysis: A Methodology for Structuring and Analyzing Written Material: PEMD-10.3.1, BiblioGov.