Step 1: Read through the combined data file

Pay attention to word choice of respondents and the context around responses, as well as the frequency, extensiveness, and intensity with which topics discussed.
Step 2: Identify themes

Start organizing the data into broad themes, and then sub-themes. Avoid the temptation to create too many overarching themes. As you code the data into themes, look for data that either supports or challenges progress toward outcomes, as well as themes within factors that explain program success or point to areas for improvement.
Step 3: Refine the themes

As you read through responses, continue to identify themes and organize data using one or more of the following techniques:
  • Word: Cutting and copying text in the appropriate sections and themes in a document.
  • Excel: Naming themes in columns and indicating relevant themes with a “1” in the appropriate row and column.
  • Qualitative software: Coding the data as instructed by the software package.
Step 4: Re-read and refine coding of responses

Once you’ve coded all of the responses to a question, re-read the responses.
  • Are there themes and sub-themes that should be further combined to go together?
  • Should you merge or split any themes?