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ATLAS.ti : Coding

A tutorial to get started with the computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) program ATLAS.ti.

All About Codes

If you need a reminder, codes are used to capture meaning in your data and represent occurrences that cannot be found by simple text based searching.  Codes can operate on different levels, depending on the depth of analysis as well as qualitative research methodology.  Generally, as you are working, you will come across similar occurrences and want to classify them, which we call "coding" in the context of ATLAS.ti. To reuse our "fancy highlighter" analogy, this is basically using different color highlighters to represent different concepts, but with much more flexibility. All your coded concepts will be linked, and can be modified as needed. The way that you code your qualitative data will be unique to your strengths as a researcher and your specific research project, so there's no "right" way to code.

Types of Coding

Coding group, options open coding text with green diamond overlaid, code in vivo rectangle with green diamond overlaid, list coding green diamonds with text to right, quick coding green diamond with speed lines to left, auto coding three green diamonds

Open Coding

Opens the Create Code dialog box, to create a new code based on your highlighted text. 

Code In Vivo

Creates a new code immediately that uses the highlighted text as its name. Useful if your highlight is itself representative of a concept. For example, if you highlight text that reads "I like cats," and select Code In Vivo, a new code would be created named "I like cats" and applied to your highlight. 

List Coding

Opens the List Coding dialog box, to select the relevant code(s) for your highlighted text. 

Quick Coding

Immediately codes the highlighted text with the most recently used code. 

How do I code?

Just like when you highlight to copy and paste a portion of text, with ATLAS.ti you highlight a portion of the text that interests you in order to code it, then you have to open the coding menu.  There are multiple points of access to get to the coding menu.  The simplest and most conducive to workflow is right clicking the portion of the PD you just highlighted, going to codes, and selecting the type of coding you would like perform. See below for more information on types of code. 

highlighted text with right click menu open, options create free quotation, open coding, code in vivo, list coding, quick coding (grayed out), create link source, create link target

You can also highlight your text, then select the appropriate coding button in the Coding group under the Document tab. Note: The Document tab is context-specific, meaning it will only be visible if you have a document open.

document tab


coding group on document tab

Other Types of Coding

Free Coding

Create codes without highlight text. Useful if you have a predefined set of concepts that your data will fall into. Note: Your Free Code will show on the list of codes but, until associated with quotations, will not have any density or groundedness.
Accessible under Code Manager, Free Code(s). 

Code Groups

Create Code Groups to find specific codes easily and filter query results. 
Accessible under Code Manager, Open Group Manager.
You can also create Groups of Documents, Memos, and Networks

Auto Coding

See the Auto Coding tab of this guide for information about this feature.

Density and Grounded

As you Code things and add other information to your project, you will see values called Density and Grounded change. These values are viewable in each entity type's manager. Grounded is only shown in the Code Manager.

Density shows the number of links between entities. For example, a density of 2 means the Code, Memo, or Quotation is linked to 2 other Codes, Memos, or Quotations. These links are manually applied by the researcher.

Grounded shows how many times a Code has been applied.

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