Stage 2 - Workflow

The second stage of the research process is where the literature review meets the research design. What is your data going to look like? Will it be interview notes, transcripts, or written documents. For my judicial impact study, the "documents" are legal decisions that interpret the policy precedent being examined. Relevant judicial decisions are identified using a variety of legal tools, and the full-text of judicial opinions are then downloaded into word processed files. When downloading files it is useful to have an organizational framework, for example, what courts are the decisions from, what issues do they involve?

When the case files are imported into MAXQDA as documents, the researcher can also make use of variables to specify document-specific criteria. For example, was the judicial decision coded as critical of the precedent, or did the court follow the precedent. Variables can be extremely valuable once you are analyzing your data.

Initial Coding and Variables derived from the literature review

One of the ...

Once downloaded into Microsoft Word (or RTF) files, the cases are ready to be imported into a MAXQDA project, and a workspace is established. When doing this, I usually create a parallel spreadsheet that lists the name of the case, the court involved, the type of court (appellate vs. trial, for example), and other basic descriptors, which are then imported into MAXQDA as document variables.

Each document is numbered consecutively and imported into MAXQDA.

Once the cases are in MAXQDA, an initial set of codes and variables are created.

The code-list is drawn from the literature review and can be thought of as rather tentative. I’ll admit there are times when I just start with no code-book and read through a few documents, and then code on the fly (by right-clicking and selecting new code). Ideally, however, an initial code-book can help the coding process, and save time. I also try to organize the codes into categories, such as legal theories, legal concepts/standards, judicial criticisms, and factual information about the case (type of dog sniff, location of the stop, descriptions of the suspect and vehicle, and miscellaneous things). I always include a code for “quotable” (referring to language I am certain I will want to quote in the analysis). It is a catch-all code, but one that can be very valuable, especially when sorting through 40 or 50 documents.