Codes are labels that we use to succinctly describe ideas, topics or concepts within a highlight. Typically codes are between 1-3 words long, and codes are typically either concrete or abstract in nature.
Think of codes as falling along this spectrum from concrete to abstract. One code is not better than another. Concrete, abstract, and any code in between all work to describe ideas differently. Each code plays an important role in creating a codebook, or a collection of codes that you use to systematically analyze highlights.
In this first example, the code “floods” is a concrete code because the speaker mentions the impact of flooding in their area. The other codes “local impacts,” “concern” and “self-reliance” are all labels that describe the speaker’s ideas, and thus are more abstract.
In this example below, the two codes that label this highlight are “voting” and “power relations.” Neither code is explicitly stated within the highlight, but we can understand them as labels used to concisely describe what the speaker has said.
“We have a responsibility now in choosing the people that lead us ….”
“We are still the ones that give power to people who make those powerful decisions over us…”
Because every sensemaker is different, we all listen and read highlights through a different lens. We may hear different ideas, and that may influence the way that we code. Ultimately, there is no incorrect way to code.