Thematic coding is a common form of qualitative analysis, yet identification of “codes” can limit understanding by directing the researcher to formulated categories rather than inviting exploration of what else the data may be trying to convey. Since categorization is an essential component of language and can scarcely be avoided, the purpose of this paper is to propose a polyphonic approach as a way to add texture and nuance. In polyphonic coding, text is coded several times along various dimensions of interest; these independently coded versions are then superimposed to identify patterns and relationships, allowing a multi-lensed view of the data as both forest and trees.
Polyphonic coding is applied to a specific interview in order to illustrate how the method can be utilized in a three-step process: in vivo coding from several independent perspectives (role, relational movement, and vocal mannerism), merging the perspectives, and “plugging in” to theory.
Polyphonic coding reveals relationships among the perspectives that point to an over-arching theme (in the example used) of a struggle for control.
This approach offers a way to code verbal, tonal, and somatic data as a means of understanding the construction and negotiation of identity in the relational context of qualitative research.
This approach promotes a flexible, expanded use of data analysis software.
The metaphor of a musical motet is used to describe a multi-faceted approach to qualitative analysis that can help to mitigate some of the pitfalls of typical thematic coding.
Probst, B. and Bucholtz, J. (2015), "Polyphonic coding in qualitative analysis: conversation as musical motet", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 339-350. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-05-2014-0017Download as .RIS
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