Data Coding & Scoring in Marketing Research

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

Coding is the assignment of labels or meaning to particular words when analyzing data, often assigned numerical scores as well. Learn the basics of coding and scoring of data in market research. Updated: 01/21/2022

The Basics of Coding

If you survey someone and ask them an open-ended question, you might get a long reply. While their answer might contain some useful insights because the respondent is using their own words, you'll need to boil it down for further study. This process of sifting through answers to open-ended questions and looking for patterns and themes is called content analysis, and the point is to interpret meaning from the text.

There are two ways that content analysis can be approached. In a conventional approach, you would review the responses and look for themes and patterns. As you come across them, you would develop a set of codes to use for frequently used words or phrases. This is coding. The code can be alphanumeric and would usually be assigned a name or a label.

The other approach is a directed approach. With the directed approach, you start with a theory and build a set of initial codes based on the theory. You can then add codes as you go through the surveys and find new information.

Marking up a transcript of an interview for coding can be a tedious process. Here's a sample of a document that's been marked up:

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  • 0:04 The Basics of Coding
  • 1:13 The Code Book
  • 2:44 Scoring the Data
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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The Code Book

A code book is a compilation of the codes, and is to be used as a reference tool. In addition to setting up the codes themselves, code books can provide information on the definition of a particular variable to aid in assigning the proper code. Because coding is subjective, there can be some variations in how codes are applied by different coders. Code books aren't just used for surveys with open-ended questions; they're used for closed-end, quantitative responses as well.

Here are the basic elements of a code book:

  • Variable names
  • What the variable stands for (i.e., its label)
  • How the variable was measured (i.e., ordinal, nominal, scale)
  • How the variable was recorded in the data set (field width, number of decimal places)
  • If it was a scale, the units of measurement
  • For categorical variables, if they were coded numerically, the list of codes and what they represent

Code books can be set up manually in Word or Excel. When you set up a code book in Excel, there may be separate worksheets for variable labels (i.e., ethnic origin) and values labels (i.e., Caucasian). SPSS is another popular program for this type of analysis. In SPSS, you can automatically generate a code book from the data set. Here's what a variable information table would look like from an SPSS codebook:

spss sample

Now, here's a table showing the variable values:

Variable table

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