MAXQDA is a powerful tool for examining and searching text. There are many ways to auto-code the appearance of certain words. While I usually begin with manual coding of documents, done through reading them, there is value in using the software's search tools to look for word phrases you might have missed, or to go back to search for codes that you only identified part way through your coding.
Lexical searches are the best way to start with such a process. For example, in the dog sniff research, the Supreme Court's opinion made the statement that a "a sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test." In reading cases, it became clear that many judges liked that quote, and cited it as justification for upholding the reliability of a dog sniff.
I did a lexical search to see how frequently the term occurs.
You begin by selecting lexical search from either the analysis menu or tool bar.
This brings up a dialog box that let's you create a search term. You can include a phrase, a word, or even part of a word. The dialog box has options for how to conduct the search. You can choose to search documents OR memos (which can be very valuable if you have created a lot of memos. You can limit the search to find whole words or determine if the search should be case sensitive. You can have multiple terms, and search for instances where two words occur "AND" or either word appears. "OR"
Lexical search, dialog box.
The lexical search creates a list of results. You can click on any result and MAXQDA automatically displays the result in the document browser.
If you want to autocode the result, you can select the auto-code or auto-code as new code icon.
If the search results include examples you don't want to code, you can de-select them, either by clicking on the double line on the left of the document name, or you can highlight the search result, and select the red stop icon.
In this example, I searched for the word "indicated" (a term used by dog handlers to say that the dog alerted to the presence of contraband, as in "the dog indicated to the presence of contraband." The word "indicated" has multiple usages, and I needed to limit the terms I was going to auto-code that referred to the dog's behavior.
When I create an auto-code I use some sort of designation to make it clear that I am auto-coding. In this example, I put [AC] before the new code name, and then create a code memo specifying what I am coding.
Finally, when auto-coding, you need to decide how much text to code, just the search string, or either the sentence (including X number of sentences before or after the search string, or the paragraph the string occurs in, and however many before or after you choose to include. I often opt for at least a paragraph on either side. It is user choice.