How to use a Word macro to fix interview transcripts for auto-coding in NVivo

Within NVivo, and likely other QDAS packages as well, it is possible to use the structure of interview transcripts for auto-coding. Basically, what auto-coding does is go through the transcript and using criteria specified by the user assigns text to chosen nodes (further explanation of auto-coding and how to do it in NVivo is available on the NVivo help website). This can be useful to separate out the different speakers within a transcript whereby everything they say is coded to a node with their participant code number. Even in one-to-one interviews this can be worth doing so that any word frequency queries, word clouds, etc can be limited to only include sections from the transcripts where a participant is speaking. However, any mistakes in the structure of the interview transcripts can result in them being incorrectly auto-coded. Depending on the extent and nature of the errors this can be a headache to manually fix. This post briefly covers what type of errors can arise and provides a set by step guide to creating a Visual Basic macro within Microsoft Word that can automate the process of fixing the paragraph styles in transcripts so they can be auto-coded without error.

Auto-coding requires transcripts to be structured in particular ways and that this structure remains consistent throughout the whole of the document. When auto-coding one of the easiest ways to structure transcripts is to use headings in the text to signal who is speaking. For example, applying “Heading 1” to “Interviewer” and “Participant” labels before what was said. Such paragraph styles (e.g. Normal, Title, Quote, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) can then be used by NVivo as signals for which node to code the text that follows them. The majority of transcribers are happy to produce transcripts based on a specified style. However, within Word it is not always clear what paragraph style is applied to each section of text. Sections that look like plain text can in fact have had a heading style applied to it, then been reformatted to look like plain text but without changing the paragraph style. Similarly, empty lines can still have paragraph styles applied to them, meaning that any which accidentally have a heading style applied can lead to the text following it being coded to the wrong node. Within NVivo this results in a node with the name ‘—’ being created, with any text following an empty line with a heading being coded to it.

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