Qualitative Coding Resources

Qualitative data analysis is a fundamental component of the research process allowing you to draw valuable insights from data, especially when dealing with complex data sources like interviews, focus groups, observations, and open-ended responses. Contrary to quantitative data like survey results, it can be more difficult for research teams to recognize the main points or themes from non-numeric data you have collected. Qualitative coding allows you to do just that.

What is Qualitative Coding?

Qualitative coding is a method of systematically analyzing textual, visual, or other non-numeric data to identify patterns, themes, and categories. This can include transcripts, notes, documents, pho  tographs, or other materials that have been prepared or collected. It is commonly used in qualitative research to make sense of rich and diverse data sources.

The primary goal of qualitative coding is to transform data sources into a form that allows researchers to identify common themes, differences, and meaningful insights from the data. Coding is a process of labelling or categorizing specific pieces of data with codes or tags, which represent concepts or themes present in the data. This allows researchers to organize and manage large volumes of qualitative data effectively.

How to Get Started with Qualitative Coding

The qualitative coding process may vary for different research teams, but generally there are a few key things to consider:


  • Data Preparation – Gather your qualitative data, which can be in the form of transcripts, field notes, photographs, or any unstructured text. Make sure your data is well-organized and properly documented so you can easily read it thoroughly to become familiar with what you are working with


  • Decide on a Coding Approach – There are various coding approaches, including deductive coding (using predefined categories) and inductive coding (letting categories emerge from the data). Choose the method that works best for your research question and the data you are working with


  • Create a Codebook – Develop a codebook or coding scheme, which outlines the codes, definitions, and criteria for assigning codes. This document will serve as your reference throughout the coding process


  • Start Coding – Begin coding by systematically applying the codes to segments of the data that relate to the chosen themes or concepts. Software tools like NVivo or Quirkos, or even simple spreadsheets can be helpful for this task


  • Review and Refine Codes – Continuously review and refine your codes as you code more data. Adjust your codebook if need to account for new insights


  • Analyze Coded Data – Once coding is complete, analyze the coded data to identify the patterns or themes. You can create visual representations, such as concept maps or thematic matrices, to help visualize relationships


  • Interpret and Draw Conclusions – Finally, interpret the findings, draw conclusions, and consider their implications in the context of your research objectives

Additional Resources to Consider

Here are some additional resources to consider if you want to dive deeper in Qualitative Data Analysis and Qualitative Coding:


The Essential Guide to Qualitative Coding – this is a guide for a software called Delve, but the resource offers an overview of the step by step process of how Qualitative Coding works and also offers more information about the different types of Qualitative Coding


Coding Qualitative Data: How to Code Qualitative Research – this resource gives a thorough overview of Qualitative Data Analysis and goes in depth into the manual Qualitative Coding process including the different types of coding and the various coding frames


Thematic Coding – this resource goes in depth into the Thematic Coding process

The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers – this resources is very methods-focused and includes information on how different codes could be developed and applied to the same portion of text, including using the interviewee’s own language as a code


Qualitative Coding – for more information on coding from the Data Management Expert Guide


Coding Qualitative Data: How to Code Qualitative Research – this resource includes more discussion about inductive versus deductive coding processes


How to Create a Qualitative Codebook – this resource lays out the process to create a Qualitative Codebook


Qualitative Analysis of Interview Data – video – a step by step guide for coding/indexing


How to Code a Document and Create Themes – video


Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
This post was prepared for PAN’s Research and Evaluation Treehouse by:


Jennifer Demchuk, Manager of Research and Evaluation Manager, [email protected]