Developing your template


Once you have your initial template, your task is to develop it until you feel it provides as good a representation as possible of the themes you have identified in the data. This is done by applying the template to each transcript in turn, coding all relevant segments on it, and modifying it if there is material relevant to the research question which the template does not adequately cover. If or more likely when, you make significant changes to the template, you will need to adjust the coding of transcripts already coded on the previous version. This iterative process of coding, modifying the template and re-coding could in theory go on indefinitely. There is no stage where you can say with absolute certainty that the template is ‘finished’, because there are always other ways of interpreting any set of qualitative data. However, you still need to make a pragmatic decision about when to stop the development process, otherwise your project will never get written up.

It is usually not too difficult to apply a law of diminishing returns, whereby you recognise that the small gain in the quality of your analysis is not worth the cost of yet further revision to the template. It is easier to make this decision when you are not working on your own, and can discuss it with a colleague or supervisor. This may be a stage where a formal quality check is useful, visit the quality checks and reflexivity section for further information.

Modifications to a template usually takes one or more of the following forms:

Inserting a theme
If you identify an issue in the text of relevance to the research question, which is not covered by an existing code, you will need to define it as a new theme and add a code for it.

Deleting a theme
You may find it necessary to delete a theme because the material it covers is better included under a different code (s). You may also find that an a priori theme turns out not to be useful and chose to remove it from the template. An initially-defined code may be deleted at the end of the process of template construction simply because the researcher has found no need to use it.

Changing the scope of a theme
Where you find that a theme is either too narrowly defined or too broadly defined to be useful, you can re-define it at a lower or higher level.

Changing the higher-order classification of a theme
You may decide that a theme initially classified as a sub-category of one higher-order theme fits better as a sub-category of a different higher-order theme.

For more detail on these ways of modifying your template, see King (1998).