Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

A code in social research is usually the alphanumeric representation of an answer recorded on a questionnaire or interview schedule or a post hoc categorisation of a piece of qualitative data.

explanatory context

Answers are translated into codes (usually numeric codes) for ease of analysis, particularly if a computer is being used. The codes are then transferred from the survey schedule or questionnaire onto a computer file (sometimes via a written coding sheet) or via a scanning program using a mechanical scanner, or directly via an on-line questionnaire. The coded data is then ready for analysis using a suitable software package, such as SPSS.


Many questionnaire surveys use precoded answers (especially on-line questionnaires), which restricts the replies the respondent can give, sometimes forcing a reply even when none of the proffered answers are appropriate. This kind of precoding results in misleading results. Precoding is used because it makes the statistical analyis much easier, albeit that the data may not be valid.


When analysisng qualitative data, segmnts of text, video clips or audio clips are usually coded in some way to assist in sorting and analysis.


A code in information technology is a set of rules that govern the representation of data. Code is usually differentiated into source code and machine code.

analytical review

The McGraw-Hill (2004) Sociological Theory site Glossary defines code rather differently:

A way of distinguishing elements of a system from elements that do not belong to the system; the basic language of a functional system. (Systems Theory)

associated issues


related areas

See also


Researching the Real World Section 8


McGraw-Hill, 2004, Sociological Theory: Glossary , available at, accessed 14 May 2013, page not available 14 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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