Highlight and tag your data
In qualitative data analysis, this is called Coding.
No, this is not what you possibly think. “Coding” in this context does not mean “writing software”. It means assigning a code to a datum or a note in order to bring some structure into the vast amount of them.
Johnny Saldaña, professor emeritus from Arizona State University, explains in his book The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers:
A code in qualitative inquiry is most often a word or short phrase that symbolically assigns a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual media.
Here are some examples from the same book:
I notice that the grand majority of homes have chain link fences in front of them. There are many dogs (mostly German shepherds) with signs on fences that say “Beware of the Dog.” (code:
Or, from a different context where a mother describes her teenage son’s troubled school years:
My son, Barry, went through a really tough time about, probably started the end of fifth grade and went into sixth grade. (code:
MIDDLE-SCHOOL HELL) When he was growing up young in school he was a people-pleaser and his teachers loved him to death. (code:
TEACHER'S PET) Two boys in particular that he chose to try to emulate … were not very good for him. (code:
You’re getting the gist: The code summarizes the note and captures the essence of it in a salient way.
An example from UX research
Let’s consider the sample note of a user signing up for a new system:
She started to fill out the user registration form and tried to submit it. The system responded: “Your password is not strong enough. It needs to be more than 8 characters long, with letters, digits and special characters.” She asked herself, frustrated: “How can I possibly remember such a password?”.
You can assign two codes here:
frustrated, one for the step in the process and the other one for the emotion that the user feels during that process step, respectively.
Chances are that you will have made many more notes about the registration process. They will all have
registration as one code and possibly other codes like
If the combination of
frustrated occurs multiple times you realize that the software has a usability problem. In that case you have identified a recurring pattern.
Meaning Maker is a sense-making machine. Its power lies in inline tagging, which we call highlighting. Highlights are added to content inside notes, and a single highlight can have one or many tags associated with it.
With Meaning Maker, you can tag a single word, sentence, or paragraph, instead of needing to tag the entire document. This means that your highlights stay in the original context — no need to break an original interview transcript into context-free nuggets.
Create a new highlight
To create a new highlight with your mouse:
- Select the text you’d like to tag.
- When the dialog pops up, click Add tag…
- Type a tag name into the input
- Choose an existing tag, or…
- Click + Create… to create a new tag
- Click outside the dialog to close it
View all highlights for a tag
When you open a tag, you’ll see all of the highlights you’ve created with that tag. To open a tag, click the tag in the note gutter or find it under Analysis in a project.
Defining the taxonomy
There are (at least) two different ways to create the tags: Before reading or while reading the note (a priori or a posteriori).
Defining tags a priori
For beginners, it helps if you decide on a taxonomy of tags early in the research process so that you tag your notes systematically. Here are some examples as an inspiration for you about what kinds of tags you can use:
|Kind of tag||Possible values|
|Media type|| |
|Research method|| |
|Experience Vector|| |
|Phase in Customer Journey|| |
Feel free to create your own categories of tags.
Defining tags a posteriori while coding
Friends of the Grounded Theory Method, for example, say that you should not create codes before analysing the text. You should keep an open mind and create codes from what you learn while reading closely. After defining a few codes, you should look at them and group them into larger codes.
Example: You tag some text with
annoyance. Afterwards, you see that these three are instances of
emotion. In that case, you would create a tag group called “emotion” and drag/drop those three tags into it.