I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in quite a while: open coding!
Let me clarify for people who get excited for more legitimate reasons: open coding is what Johnny Saldana, in The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers, calls a first cycle coding method: it’s a way to add descriptive labels to data in order to begin making sense of it in relation to a research question that stay very tight to the data: you’re often using in vivo codes to explain the data that you see.
Much of my work in graduate school was based on grounded theory, or some variant of it, and so I often did a lot of open coding. That carried into my work at UMaine pretty smoothly, but this semester saw a ton of my work that was moving to the finish line (such as my book, which I continue to mention at every single opportunity), and that took up a lot of my allotted time for research. Much of my writing was making revisions and edits to completed work. I also did some preliminary interviews for an ongoing oral history project I have going, but the oral history approach is different, and there’s not really a reason to code in the preliminary interview stage.
Anyway, as I was saying, my research time didn’t really lend itself to open coding much this semester. And I didn’t realize it until now, but I’ve kind of missed this stage of research. Open coding has always seemed, to me at least, to be the most, well, open of the coding stages. Once you get to your second-cycle codes, and you start generating theoretical claims, you’re nailing down the finer points of some emergent conclusions, and the feeling sort of changes.
When you’re open coding, though, you have no idea what you’ll find. You might not even find anything! That’s not ideal, obviously, but the possibility certainly makes things refreshing.
I did the work in the morning, and it had a nice and familiar feel to it: doing some coding, keeping track of definitions, writing some memos to myself, and so on. I wrapped it up with an email to my participant with some questions, which I hope will set the stage for our next interview. The focus of this work is a continuation of my lifespan literate action development project, so it feels like I’m continuing to build something while also creating the conditions to uncover something new.
In Other News
I continue to struggle to post to this at the times I want to—I aimed for Monday and Thursday, and I don’t think I’ve done that yet.
I’ve been working to add some more images, and taking things from the Creative Commons site (with attribution, thank you very much!) to do that. It hasn’t really spread to the actual pages of this site yet, but at least I’m making some progress.
Couldn’t find a good image for today, though. I tried to look through the Creative Commons site for “coding” and an image of a banana costume came up. Go figure.