Chapter 10 – Managing Interpretations through Writing (TRANSANA)

Download the pdf for this chapter guide here.

Chapter 10 in the book is all about managing interpretations; managing where and how you make analytic notes, using software structures to ensure your thoughts do not get forgotten or your notes lost. Ways of expressing or visualizing connections and relationships are sometimes provided in software and help in the generation and management of the ideas that you have about the data. The literature that informs your work is very important and these software programs can be used in many different ways to manage cross referencing with substantive data or to manage the literature review itself. See all coloured illustrations (from the book) of software tasks and functions, numbered in chapter order. 

Sections included in the chapter:

Writing as continuous analysis

Critical Appraisals of literature

Analytic memos

Process memos


Linking notes to data

Integrating notes with other work

Visualising memos

Analytic Memos in Transana by David K. Woods, Ph.D., Transana’s Lead Developer

10.1 Analytic Memos in Transana

The topic of analytic memos has come up several times already. We discuss Transana’s model for analytic memos, called Notes, in Chapter 5 exercises, (sections 2.8, 3.6), also in Chapter 7 exercises. You may wish to review these sections.

In Transana, you can create free-form Notes, which you can associate with Series, Episode, Transcript, Collection, Clip, and Snapshot records. While notes allow you to work any way you want to, I, as a general rule, use different types of notes for different types of analytic memos.

I rarely use Series Notes. When I do, they tend to describe the schema I use for organizing my original, raw media files, and they describe what files belong to a particular Series. The larger the study, and the more people bringing raw data into the analysis, the more important Series Notes can be.

I use Episode Notes to describe my observations about a specific media file or set of synchronized media files. I record things I notice on first viewing here, particularly ideas of analytic strains I want to remember to follow up on. If I will only be using a single transcript for a given media file, most of the observations I make during transcription also go into the Episode Note. Finally, I will often describe the circumstances and details of data collection in an Episode note, particularly if that Episode contains multiple simultaneous media files.

I really only use Transcript Notes in situations where I am creating multiple transcripts for a given Episode. In that case, I start by describing the analytic function for the transcript, focusing on how it differs from the other transcripts I create. If I am using multiple simultaneous transcripts for an analysis, those observations about a media file I make during transcription might go into the Episode Note if are transcript-independent, but they will definitely go into a Transcript Note if they are in any way specific to the transcription methodology or analytic lens I’m using for each separate transcript.

I use Collection Notes to describe the analytic purpose each Collection I create. If the collection has a non-analytic function, as when I create an “interesting stuff” collection for things I want to follow up on later but don’t want to take the time to categorize in the moment, I’ll make that clear in the Collection Note. When I am creating Quick Clips, I add a Collection Note to my Quick Clips collection that describes the focus of the analytic pass I’m implementing using Quick Clips, and I add to that note when the analytic pass is over and I rename the Collection functionally. If the function of a Collection changes, I time-stamp and write about the change and its causes without deleting the older information, even (and especially) when that information is contradicted or superseded.

I use Clip Notes a lot when I’m creating and editing Clips to describe the thinking behind each Clip I create. I try to note information about why I start and end the clip where I do and why I include the coding I do when that information isn’t painfully obvious (and sometimes even when it is, especially when I’m working as part of a team!) While this process can feel like it is slowing down the process of Clip creation (and especially the process of Quick Clip creation), I am usually grateful that I did it after the fact.

I use Snapshot Notes to document the reasons behind creating each Snapshot and coding it the way I do. This is a good place to put into words the analytic intent behind the zooming, framing, and detail coding you draw on a Snapshot, which might be obvious to you in the moment, but which might not be so obvious to a colleague or even to yourself when you revisit your data in 6 months or 6 years.

Being conscious of the different roles that different types of notes can play helps me think through the logic of where a particular idea or comment “belongs” in my larger structure of notes. This, in turn, makes it much easier to know where to look for that comment at a later time, when I may remember writing something but may not remember where I did so. When I have a question about why I coded a particular Clip a particular way, I can be pretty sure that the note attached to that Clip will contain whatever clues to that puzzle I left for myself.

Lewins and Silver talk about structuring memos, using formatting within notes, such as color or character style, to denote analytic meaning. Transana does not support any formatting of text within Notes. Within Transana, you can use text “flags” to denote the same information that formatting would impart. Flags have two advantages over formatting. First, their meaning is usually more apparent to colleagues and to yourself after the passage of time. Second, flags are available to the Note Search function, to be described in the next section, in a way that formatting is not.

10.2 The Notes Browser

One of the major consequences of the design behind Transana’s Notes system is that analytic memo information tends to get scattered throughout a project database. The larger your project grows, the more scattered your notes become, and the more challenging it can become to locate a particular note you can recall making for yourself.

To address this issue, Transana provides the Notes Browser tool. To view the Notes Browser, go to either the Tools menu or the Window menu and choose the Notes Browser menu item. 

Transana image

The Notes Browser allows you to see all of your notes in one place, sorted by type of Note.

The Note Search tab allows you to search for particular words or phrases in your notes, making it easier to find a particular note you are looking for when you cannot locate it. Enter a word or phrase into the Search Text box in the left hand window and press the Search Button. Only notes containing the word or phrase will be displayed in the Notes tree. When you select a Note to view, your search term will be automatically placed in the Note’s Search Text in the right hand window, ready for you to search for instances of that phrase in the current note.

Transana’s Notes editing interface, whether inside or outside the Notes browser, provides toolbar buttons for inserting date/time stamps, for exporting individual notes to plain text documents, and for printing Notes. The Notes editor also supports cut, copy, paste, and undo functionality through the keyboard shortcuts common to all programs for your operating system. 

10.3 Notes in Reports

Notes can be included in Transana’s Collection Report (see Chapter 8 exercises – section 8.4) and Episode Report (see section 8.5) by adding the desired Notes categories on the Reports Contents tab of the report’s Filter Dialog. This allows you to create a report that includes all of the notes related to a particular Collection or set of Nested Collections, optionally including all of the notes for Clips and Snapshots in those Collections, or for all Clips and Snapshots associated with a particular source media file.

You can also create reports that just include notes from within the Notes Browser. In the Notes Browser’s Database Tree, you can right-click the main Database node to request a report including all notes in your project. You can also click each of the main nodes to request the Series Notes Report, the Episode Notes Report, the Transcript Notes Report, the Collection Notes report, the Clip Notes Report, and the Snapshot Notes Report, depending on the type of notes you would like to include in the report. The Notes Reports include a Filter Dialog, allowing you to choose to include or exclude individual Notes from the reports if you so desire.

You could go in any direction now. See previous exercises or go to Chapter 13 exercises which explore searching possibilities provided by Transana 

David K. Woods 2014