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.

Click on the Code button in the toolbar and select New Code(s) from the drop-down menu. The short-cut key combination is Cmd+K.

New Code

You can also create new codes in the Code Manager by clicking on the + button.

Coding with a New Code

Open a document and highlight a data segment, i.e. a piece of text, a rectangular area in a graphic document, a section on the audio wave of a video or audio document, or a location in a geo document.

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

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

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

New Code with Coding

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

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.

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.

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-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, click on the Codes icon. 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 recommend to place it next to the text you are coding. If you click on the pin on the top right-hand side of the window, the Code Manager stays on top.

You can quickly access codes using code groups to filter the list, or using the search field.

New Code with DnD

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.

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

Apply Last Used Codes

Applying the last used code(s) to the current data segment is an efficient method for the consecutive coding of segments.

Highlight a data segment or click on an existing quotation.

Right click and select Add Last Used Codes from the context menu.

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.

Keyboard Shortcuts For Coding

Create Free CodeCmd+K
Apply CodesCmd+J
Apply Last Used CodesCmd+L
Code In VivoShift+Cmd+V

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.

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.

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 if relationships between codes become apparent. T