Integrating Coding and Memo Writing in Qualitative Analysis

This course focuses on developing codes and integrating memo writing into a larger analytic process as we keep the parts and the whole of data in mind. Coding and memo writing are strategic ways of assessing “evidence” and meaning in qualitative research. They function as simultaneous and fluid tasks that occur during actively reviewing interviews, focus groups, audio-visual data, and other kinds of qualitative data. As researchers, we discern both holistic meaning at the level of the transcript and concentrated meaning at the level of the code.

Memos function as generative reflections that allow us to discern layers of tangible and implied meaning within a quotation as well as document our analytic reaction to a transcript as a holistic unit. Memo writing strategies help us develop abstract thinking, inscribed meaning between pieces of data, and collective evidence for emerging claims. Researchers can also mine memos for codes and incorporate memos in building evocative themes and theory. Memos can also resemble early writing for reports, articles, chapters, and other forms of presentation. The following types of memos will be discussed: key quotation memos, holistic memos, and comparison memos. We will also briefly cover positionality memos and methods memos.

We will discuss a priori codes—our point of departure—and “emerging” codes and consider how codes can surface from our simultaneous memo writing as well as shift unexpectedly during analysis. That is, we will not present coding and memo writing as necessarily discrete phases but rather conceptually conjoined as we move back and forth from one form of attentiveness to another, gathering, questioning, and revisiting narrative evidence. Though the course will not cover final products of analysis, our discussion of memos and codes will set the foundation for assessing code connections, shared meanings, identifying code “constellations,” and building multidimensional themes. Our discussion of codes will include the following topics: the importance of code names and evolving code memos, moving from descriptive to conceptual codes, and using memos intentionally throughout analysis.