Coding Data

“Coding means that we attach labels to 'segments of data' that depict what each segment is about. Through coding, we raise analytic questions about our data from […]. Coding distills data, sorts them, and gives us an analytic handle for making comparisons with other segments of data” (Charmaz, 2014:4).

“Coding is the strategy that moves data from diffuse and messy text to organized ideas about what is going on” (Richards and Morse, 2013:167).

"Coding is a core function in ATLAS.ti that lets you “tell” the software where the interesting things are in your data. ... the main goal of categorizing your data is to tag things to define or organize them. In the process of categorization, we compare data segments and look for similarities. All similar elements can be grouped under the same name. By naming something, we conceptualize and frame it at the same time" (Friese, 2019).

Creating New Codes without Coding

You can create codes that have not (yet) been used for coding. Such codes are called "free" codes. This can for example be useful when ideas for codes come to mind during normal coding work and that cannot be applied to the current segment but will be useful later. Sometimes you also need free codes for expression conceptual connections in networks. If you already have a list of codes, possibly including code descriptions and groupings elsewhere, you can use the option: Importing A List Of Codes.

In the Home tab, click on New Entities and from the drop-down menu select New Code(s). The short-cut key combination is Ctrl+K.

You can also create new codes in the Code Manager.

Click on the button Free Code(s) in the ribbon of the Code Manager.

Coding with a New Code

Open a document and highlight a data segment, i.e., a piece of text, audio or video data, an area in a graphic document, or a location in a geo document.

Right-click and select Apply Codes, or use the short-cut Ctrl+J, or click on the 'Apply Codes' button in the ribbon.

Coding with a new code

Enter a name and click on the plus button or press enter.

Coding with a new code

You can continue to add more codes, or simply continue to select another data segment. The dialogue closes automatically.

for more information on working with data other than text, see Working With Multimedia Data and Working With Geo Docs.

Display of Coded Data Segments in the Margin Area

The coded segment is displayed in the margin area. A blue bar marks the size of the coded segment (= quotation), and the code name appears next to it. When coding data in this way, a new quotation is created automatically, and the code is linked to this quotation.

Display of coded data segment in margin

Applying Existing Codes

Existing codes can be applied using the Coding Dialogue or via Drag & Drop.

Using the Coding Dialogue

Highlight a data segment, right-click and select Apply Codes, or simply double-click on the quotation.

ATLAS.ti Coding Dialogue

Select one of the existing codes, click on the plus button or press Enter. If you type the first few letters in the entry field, only those codes are presented that match the letter combination.

Code density is not a value that is calculated by the software. It goes up, when the researcher begins to link codes to each other. See Working With Networks.

Drag-and-Drop Coding

Drag & Drop Coding

Drag-and-Drop Coding is possible from the following locations:

  • the Codes branch from the Project Explorer
  • the Code Browser in the navigation panel.
  • the Code Manager

Below you find more Drag-and-Drop options.

To use drag-and-drop coding highlight a data segment, select one or more codes in the above mentioned lists or windows and drag the code onto the highlighted data segment.

Code Browser in the navigation panel: To open the Code Browser, go to the Home ribbon and select Codes from the Navigator section. The search field in the Code Browser facilitates handling a longer code list. Rather than scrolling the list, you enter the first letters of a code.

Code Manager: When using the Code Manager, it is recommended to place it next to the text you are coding into a new tab group. See Working With Docked And Floated Windows. You can quickly access codes using code groups to filter the list, or by using the search field. In the Code Manager you can see and edit code comments.

Code In-Vivo

Use in-vivo coding when the text itself contains a useful and meaningful name for a code.

In-vivo coding creates a quotation from the selected text AND uses the selected text as the code name. If the selected text's boundaries are not exactly what you want for the quotation, modifying the quotation's "spread" is often the next step after creating the in-vivo code. See Working with Codes > Modifying the length of a coded segment.

Select a segment in a text document, right-click and select Code in Vivo, or the corresponding button in the ribbon.

In-Vivo coding can only be applied to textual primary documents.

Quick Coding

Quick Coding assigns the last used code to the current data segment. This is an efficient method for the consecutive coding of segments using the most recently used code.

Highlight a data segment or click on an existing quotation.

Right click and select Quick Coding from the context menu, or use the short-cut Ctrl+L. Another option is to click on the Quick Coding button in the ribbon, but this is (admittedly) less quick.

Document Ribbon when Coding

Document ribbon when coding a document

Apply Codes: Opens the Coding Dialogue.

Code In vivo: In-vivo coding creates a quotation from the selected text AND uses the selected text as the code name.

Quick Coding: Quick Coding assigns the last used code to the current data segment.

Search & Code: You can access the four Search & Code functions from here:

Opening the Search & Code functions

Focus Group Coding: You can start the Focus Group Coding function from here.

Rename: This allows you to rename a selected quotation.

Delete: Select a code in the margin area or a quotation. Only the quotation will be deleted.

Unlink: You can unlink codes from a quotation, or a hyperlink using this option.

Flip Link: Flips the link of a selected hyperlink.

Relation: Opens the Relation Manager.

Comment: Click the drop-down arrow and select which comment you want to view or edit.

Word Cloud: Creates a word cloud from the document.

Word List: Creates a word list from the document.

Search Document: Searches the content of the document.

Edit: Starts edit mode, so you can modify the content of the document. When selected the ribbon changes, and you see the available edit options:

Edit menu for documents

Print: Click on this option if you want to print the document as you see it on your screen including the margin area. After clicking this option, the following printer dialog opens:

Print with margin dialog

Printer: Select if you want to send the output to a printer or whether you want to save it as PDF document.

Orientation: The default selection is 'Landscape', as this is likely the best option to see the document and all codes in the margin area.

Margin space: Under 'Margin space', you can adjust the width of the margin if you need more or less space.

Pages: You can print all pages, or a page range.

With the 'Previous' and 'Next Page' buttons you can preview all pages.

The print with margin option is available for text, PDF and image documents.

Keyboard Shortcuts For Coding

Create Free CodeCtrl+K
Apply CodesCtrl+J
Quick CodingCtrl+L
Code In-VivoShift + Ctrl + V

More Drag-And-Drop Options

  • You can drag-and-drop quotations in the Quotation Manager to a code in the side-panel in the Quotation Manager.

  • You can drag-and-drop quotations from the Quotation Manager to a code in Code Manager.

  • You can drag-and-drop one or more codes to a quotation in the Quotation Manager.

  • You can drag-and-drop one or more codes to a quotation in the Quotation Browser in the Navigation Panel.

  • You can drag-and-drop quotations from the Quotation Browser to a code in Code Manager.

  • You can drag-and-drop quotations from the Quotation Browser in the Navigation panel to a code in side panel of the Quotation Manager.

Display of Codes and Coded Data Segments in the Project Explorer

Under the main Documents branch you see on the first level the quotations including quotation ID and start and end position. If a quotation is coded, you see the codes on the second level.

Display of codes under the Documents branch

Under the main Codes branch, all codes are listed. If codes are linked to other codes, you can expand the code sub tree further. See linking codes.

Display of codes under the Codes branch

The number behind a code, e.g. (1-0) means that the code has been applied 1 time and that it has not yet been linked to other codes (density = 0). The density remains 0 until the researcher manually links codes to other codes, mostly in later stages of the analysis, when relationships between codes become apparent. The code list shown in example 2 is from a more advanced project where links between codes have already been created.