Coding is a ubiquitous part of the qualitative research process, but it is often under-considered in research methods training and literature. This article explores a number of questions about the coding process which are often raised by beginning researchers, in the light of the recommendations of methods textbooks and the factors which contribute to an answer to these questions. I argue for a conceptualisation of coding as a decision-making process, in which decisions about aspects of coding such as density, frequency, size of data pieces to be coded, are all made by individual researchers in line with their methodological background, their research design and research questions, and the practicalities of their study. This has implications for the way that coding is carried out by researchers at all stages of their careers, as it requires that coding decisions should be made in the context of an individual study, not once and for all.


Coding, Qualitative Data Analysis, CAQDAS

Author Bio(s)

Victoria Elliott is Associate Professor of English and Literacy Education at the University of Oxford, UK. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: velda.elliott@education.ox.ac.uk.


I am grateful to successive cohorts of Advanced Qualitative Research students in the Social Science Division for their prompting of many of the questions which stimulated the production of this article.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.