Today rocked. In order to discuss why, I must mention a few details from the work I've been doing lately.
I moved the open codes into one spreadsheet per participant (14 of them). Yesterday I finished the axial coding process for half of them.
An aside: I think I've mentioned before that axial coding is essentially coding the codes. It involves creating a broader code name under which each open code can be grouped. The broader code names relate more closely to the literature that applies to the study. It's a technique used a) to reduce the number of open codes into a shorter, more digestible list, and b) to bring all of the codes themselves closer to the concepts driving the purpose of the study.
Back on topic: I finished axial coding 7 of the 14 interviews, and then I cut/pasted all of those into one very long column in a spreadsheet. After using the 'remove duplicates' command (which deserves great amounts of love and adoration), I found myself starting with a list of 332 codes. Oy.
So I started reducing things. For example, internship and apprenticeship are essentially the same thing, so I chose one over the other (internship). Then I needed to decide if internship could stand alone as a broader code, or if it needed to be part of something bigger. Well, the reason why internships are important to this study is the connection between the student and the mentor that forms as a result of the activity. So, I placed my internship code on the same row as the code for mentoring. Get it? Reduce and group. Reduce and group. That's been my mantra of the day.
Slowly, the code list became shorter and wider. I removed synonyms or other things that just were extraneous to the process. I grouped concepts underneath broader concepts and kept referring to my literature map to make sure these things connected to the literature.
But then something really cool happened: it all snapped together at one moment. I couldn't move things fast enough into groupings. It was like a deck of cards was shuffling itself. A series of dominoes were falling into perfect alignment instead of being spread all over the floor. It was a really weird experience, and I kept saying out loud, "Oh my god, it's coming together by itself!" Wife must think I'm insane, but that's alright.
A task I thought would take two to three days took me a total of about four hours this afternoon. The code list that started at 332 collapsed to 158, then 112, then 68, and now finally it's at 42. 42. OK, I can work with 42. Far easier to handle than 332. That's an 87% reduction in codes. And it all just seemed to click together today.
In the next couple of days, I will use said list of 42 to quickly recode the other 7 interviews. I think I have a shot at getting through those fairly quickly.
In other news: my three peer reviewers have all responded with a resounding 'yes.' The one who is local to LSC is having lunch with me next Friday. I must give her and the other two reviewers the dissertation proposal, data framework, and anything else I can to see if they agree with me on the direction the study is taking. It's a hard deadline, and if this doesn't motivate me to get it done, then nothing will.
At this point, I'm confident it's all going to come together. It's not going to be perfect, but I don't care. Wow. Who the hell knew?