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ATLAS.ti : Auto Coding

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

What is Auto Coding?

The best thing about using the Auto Coding feature in ATLAS.ti is that it can be as hands-off or hands-on as you like. You may confirm every selection before the program codes the text, or allow ATLAS.ti to automatically code selections.

Auto Coding is essentially performing a text search and telling ATLAS.ti to apply the selected code to matches, which will create a Quotation linked to the appropriate Code. See the Auto Coding interface below, with an outline of Auto Coding options.

Auto Coding Interface

In the example below, we are looking at a sample of comments taken from a parenting blog. We want to code passages that imply the writer of the comment has a partner. Use of the pipe character (|) denotes the Boolean operator OR, so this will automatically code occurrences of "wife," "husband," or "partner" as the code "marriage." 

auto coding dialog box, select code, search for, find word, expand match to exact match, confirm matches check box unchecked

Other Options

Auto Coding Multiple Documents

Using the Document Manager, found on the Home tab in the Managers group, select the desired documents, right click, and select Auto Coding to open the Auto Coding interface.

Confirm Matches

Checking this option switches the Auto Coder between fully and semi-automatic coding. With the option checked, ATLAS.ti will ask if you want to code or skip every highlight it finds.

Find Option


The Text option finds the entered text exactly as it is (does not support using Boolean operators like OR and AND).


Word is like text, but supports use of Boolean operators like OR or AND, and use of wildcard characters * and ?. With the Auto Coding box open, click the question mark next to Find to display more information.


Select Expression if you want to search for multiple words that are together, but not necessarily adjacent to one another.

Regular Expression (regex or RE)

Search using a Regular Expression (see the Text Searching tab, or this Microsoft Quick Reference on Regex).

Expand Match Option

What you select for Expand Match will affect what text the auto coder highlights and codes. Auto Coding can automatically highlight Exact Matches, the Word you searched, or the Sentence, Paragraph, Chapter, or Document in which the searched text is found.

This is mostly personal preference relating to how you have been coding passages throughout the project.  You may find it helpful to go broad during the Auto Coding process and then go back and review afterward to fine tune the length of the quote.


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