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The Coding Process and Its Challenges

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Author(s): Judith A. Holton, Ph.D.

Journal: Grounded Theory Review : an International Journal
ISSN 1556-1542

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: classic grounded theory | coding | conceptualization | memoing | preconception

ABSTRACT
Coding is the core process in classic grounded theory methodology. It is through coding that the conceptual abstraction of data and its reintegration as theory takes place. There are two types of coding in a classic grounded theory study: substantive coding, which includes both open and selective coding procedures, and theoretical coding. In substantive coding, the researcher works with the data directly, fracturing and analysing it, initially through open coding for the emergence of a core category and related concepts and then subsequently through theoretical sampling and selective coding of data to theoretically saturate the core and related concepts. Theoretical saturation is achieved through constant comparison of incidents (indicators) in the data to elicit the properties and dimensions of each category (code). This constant comparing of incidents continues until the process yields the interchangeability of indicators, meaning that no new properties or dimensions are emerging from continued coding and comparison. At this point, the concepts have achieved theoretical saturation and the theorist shifts attention to exploring the emergent fit of potential theoretical codes that enable the conceptual integration of the core and related concepts to produce hypotheses that account for relationships between the concepts thereby explaining the latent pattern of social behaviour that forms the basis of the emergent theory. The coding of data in grounded theory occurs in conjunction with analysis through a process of conceptual memoing, capturing the theorist’s ideation of the emerging theory. Memoing occurs initially at the substantive coding level and proceeds to higher levels of conceptual abstraction as coding proceeds to theoretical saturation and the theorist begins to explore conceptual reintegration through theoretical coding.
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