So for the greater part of today, I have been organizing transcripts and coding data. The best way for me to explain the process of coding data is to direct you to anyone's set of pictures up at www.flickr.com. Take mine for example, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chesterley/ (these are old photos...I don't really use Flickr anymore now that I use Picasa, but you get the idea). All of the pictures there have "tags" that describe what's in the shot. A user can add as many tags as he wants to each picture. I do the same thing with adding "labels" to my posts here in this blog. Scroll down to the "labels" area in the right-hand column to see the entire list. Then, if you click on a label, you'll see any post that I tagged with that label.
Coding data in qualitative research is very similar to tagging photos in Flickr or posts here in Blogger. It's a way of categorizing the words of my participants. Later on I'll refine the codes into short phrases that I can use across interviews. For now I'm working on "open coding" which is really a free-form analysis of text. I read and re-read the transcripts, and for each sentence, phrase, or sometimes paragraph, I create a code. Just a way to sort of categorize what the participant is saying. Yep, it's pretty tedious, but I'm finally making good progress today.
About an hour ago, I started freaking out a bit. I have FOURTEEN participants for this study. I've open-coded a few of them thus far, but geez. Each interview transcript ranges from 25-40 pages long (one was even 50, but that was my first interview and it was really really long). The task I have ahead of me is very daunting, and I keep thinking about how much more of my life this is going to take, will I really ever be able to wrap my brain around all the data? Will I ever get my life back? Will I ever get this parasite of a study off my back?
Do all doctoral students talk to themselves like this??
Calm the fuck down, Rob [still talking to myself...where's the bus to the looney bin??]. Finish the transcript you're on so you can make some progress. Take advantage of having the house to yourself this weekend to get this crap done.
Deep breath. OK. I'm drinking a beer now. A very nice Trader Joe's Hefe Weisen, I must add (gotta love city life and easy access to decent beer). I'm now living in the moment, dammit. When push comes to shove, I can get through a shorter transcript in just over an hour if I really focus. OK, it's really not that bad. I could finish most of the open coding this week if I really push it.
Living in the present moment is a good thing. So is drinking a beer during the data analysis process, at least once in a while. Especially a good beer.