Qualitative Research in Geography using Coding Analysis
Coding is a process in which quantitative or qualitative data is categorised to help analysis. This can be used by geographers to help analyse questionnaires results, newspaper articles or interview transcripts.
The coding process involves searching the text for similar themes, ideas, concepts and key words and then marking those passages with a code colour. This makes it easier to make comparisons and to identify any patterns that can be investigated further.
All text that is coded with the same colour should be about the same topic, theme, concept etc..
If a theme is identified from the data that does not quite fit the codes already existing then a new code should be created.
As you read through the text, the number of codes you have will grow as more topics or themes become apparent. Your list of codes will help you to identify the issues contained in the text and to see links between these issues and patterns of opinions and information expressed.
A coding example using a Guardian newspaper article about tourist conflict in Barcelona is shown below. The analysis and interpretation is based on two codes:
- data and case study evidence (facts);
- viewpoints, meanings and representations (interpretation).
Useful data here on tourist numbers
Good evidence of protest
Useful factual context and information
Mass tourism can kill
a city – just ask Barcelona's residents
The newspaper writer is using very strong /emotive language – in order to show how seriously a lot of people view this urban issue
This local perspective blames big businesses ('who only care about money') for
negative changes in place identity.
Reporting Qualitative Findings
It is best to start with a brief explanation of how your data was coded, as well as how and why you selected the data source for presentation.
You should show the data coding in the presentation of your results so that the reader is able to view the different categories of coding used.
Quantifying your coding and presenting the results in a bar chart or other graphical technique can be a good way of demonstrating the relative importance of different ideas or concepts in the data.
When presenting your findings, you should include actual examples of comments that reflect the concept (e.g. protest) being coded.
Thanks to Dr. Simon Oakes for providing this coding example.