hands painted wall

Coding Moment of the Week 4

By Owen Sullivan

For the past few weeks, members of the NOISE Project have been coding responses from interviews that were conducted over the summer. During the coding process, we scan interview  answers for their main ideas, and then assign them words or phrases that capture these main themes. These words and phrases are called codes. For more information on coding, check out Luna Castelli’s video here! Each week, we’ll outline our “Moment of the Week,” in which we share an interesting coding discussion. Here’s this week’s!

What They Said

“I hope that we continue to find, you know, groups that we can be of service to… It allows the finite research they have to work with to be much more effectively communicated about or drawn upon as we help them through that.”


How We Coded It

This interviewee begins by voicing their support for community engagement, stating that they hope that the lab continues to find “groups that we can be of service to.” From this, we coded desire, as the interviewee demonstrates a desire for inclusion and community engagement.

In this next line, the interviewee directly refers to “research” and “communication.” From this, we simply applied the codes research and communication. This is an example of a time in which an interviewee mentions exact topics that are included in our codebook, allowing us to apply a straightforward code.

At the end of the sentence, the interviewee states that they want the Lab of Ornithology to “help them through that.” Note that the phrase “them” refers to the Lab’s community partners. This statement shows that the Cornell Lab, as a result of their power as an institution, is in a position where they can decide whether or not to “help” community partners. From this, we applied the code power, as it is clear that Cornell holds more power than their community partners in this relationship, as they have the power to decide whether to engage with community organizations.

  • This interviewee is confident that Cornell knows how to “help” community partners improve their ability to communicate research. This assumption that Cornell has the knowledge and power to “help” communities can be captured with the code I Know What You Need, which is defined as “Institutional or personal confidence that their expertise and resources are best.” 
  • This phrase that the Cornell Lab should “help them through that,” indicates that instruction and help comes from the top of the power hierarchy (Cornell) and is then disseminated downwards to our community partners who will have less power. This method of community engagement is known as the Top Down method, which is the code that we applied.
  • Additionally, this same phrase “help them through that,” implies that they (communities) have issues or difficulties that they need “help” with. In this way, the interviewee acknowledges that the community has a perceived deficit that the lab can “help” them with. From this, we also applied the subcode deficit to the code top-down. Together, these codes form the top-down deficit model, in which instruction is disseminated downwards to our community partners in order to help them with a perceived deficit that the institution believes exists in the community.

Questions for thought:

Think about the connotations of the word “help.” How does this word indicate power dynamics? Is there an alternative method for an institution to engage in Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR), rather than the institution providing information to a community in order to “help” that community?

Do you agree with the codes we applied? Do you disagree? Are you comfortable with the thought process that took place?

Let us know!