Question & Answer
Doing Qualitative Research Using Your Computer:
A Practical Guide
(Sage Publications)

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Is is okay to create a Level 1 code document without a table of codes and/or a table of contents?

If you think of a code document (formatted transcript) as a chapter in a textbook, the Table of Contents and the Table of Codes (pages 97-104) are like chapter summaries. In a textbook, chapter summaries not essential, but they are very helpful, especially when studying for an exam. In this analogy, the exam is equivalent to writing your final report... which might be a thesis, dissertation, or corporate briefing.

The Table of Contents and the Table of Codes are also very helpful any time you want to review the code document. The tables allow you to efficiently locate an idea or concept that is floating around in your mind, and they allow you to get the "big picture" of the interview at a glance.

The Table of Codes is the most helpful table during coding because it allows you to quickly view the list of Level 1 codes alphabetically as they develop. The Table of Codes was developed because the author finds it helpful to keep track of developing lists of Level 1 codes during coding. If this doesn't seem critical to you then you may skip the creation of this table, or you may manually write down the Level 1 codes as you create them (cut and paste to a Word document). The Table of Contents is most important at the time of report writing.

The question is... will the creation of the tables save you time and increase the quality of the written report in the long run? Without the tables you will be spending more time searching around in the code documents and transcripts at the time you write your report. If you do a really good job of copying all of the text that inspired your Level 1 codes into the code database and identify the in-situ location of the text that inspired the code in the "idea source" field you won't have to refer to the code documents often, but when you do it will be quick and efficient to review your raw data.

Summary: In a smaller project it is okay to skip the creation of the tables in the Word code document, but be diligent about populating the "idea source" field when you create your Level 2 codes and transfer your data to the Access or Excel code database.

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