Creating Codes in Content Analysis

Codes are simply abbreviations, or tags, for segments of text. Before evaluators can code a document, they must first create a code for each variable’s categories. To minimize error, a code should be an abbreviated version of a category. In figure 4.1, for example, the variable is “attitude toward cost-sharing,” and it has three categories: negative, neutral, and positive, labeled n, 0, and p. When coders identify a textual statement about cost-sharing, they can easily insert the correct code because the choices are “costshn,” “costshO,” and “costshp.”

Many coding schemes are possible, depending on software constraints. Software usually limits the type of characters that can be used, the total number of characters in the’ code, and upper case versus lower case alphabetic characters.

Evaluators should define their codes in a coding manual that they prepare for training coders and for their use during actual coding. The manual should at minimum contain the list of codes and what they mean and overall coding guidance.

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

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