Practice in the Making: Memoranda

Memorandum 2

‘First Cut’ Coding – developing codes within the energy biographies team

by Catherine Butler, 20 July 2012

Our process of analysis involves an initial stage which can be referred to as ‘first cut’ coding. The principle aim of this stage of coding is to cut into the data ordering it in such a way to allow more detailed analysis of particular elements.

Codes at this stage are both descriptive (examples of descriptive ordering codes from the current data set are solar PV and heating), and more analytic (examples include resilience and insecurity, and identity). The descriptive codes simply denote parts of the interviews that involve discussion of the particular code (e.g. any discussion of heating). The more analytic codes entail a greater sensitivity to theoretical concepts and ideas as the codes will include elements of the interview discussion that may not relate to the code in obvious ways.

This form of ‘first cut’ coding requires a level of deeper understanding of the concepts so that all relevant aspects of the text will be coded. At this stage the coding remains broad with the aim being to order the data into codes that can subsequently be subject to more detailed, refined analysis and thought about meaning.

Working in teams to conduct analysis of this kind requires interaction and discussion between team members particularly regarding the more analytic codes. Our working practices involve early stage sessions in which we meet and discuss coding of the same transcript to build up understanding of code meanings. This process enables development of the coding framework, with codes being opened up to examine meaning and build understanding of the conceptual components across the team, and new codes being created. This process also helps to ensure consistency in coding across researchers.