In the original research project the interview transcripts were coded using a system of 19 themes relating to the subject of family life and work experience. These themes or 'topics' were based upon the main sections in the interview schedule. The questions in the schedule therefore provide an indication of the type of content that might be classified under a particular theme. The categories are fairly broad and many strong themes to emerge in the course of the interviews, such as migration, health and poverty, for example, were not included in the original coding.
- domestic routine
- influence and discipline
- recreation in the home
- recreation outside the home
- weekend activities and religion
- parents' interests
- children's leisure
- community and social class
- work, except domestic service
- life after leaving school
- childbirth and infancy
- family life after marriage (This number was not used.)
- domestic service
- institutions and boarding schools
- occupational history (factual compilation of all that is known about the occupational history of interviewees and their kin)
The thematic extracts - a popular method of access
The thematic classification provided a common structure for searching and comparing the content of the interview texts. However, accessing and analysing this information, as it stood embedded in 444 interview texts, would have been a time-consuming and cumbersome task. The project therefore devised a novel paper-based thematic filing system, which has since proved to be a popular resource for secondary users.
The method was straightforward. Copies were made of the interview texts and once the texts had been coded, passages of text were cut-and-pasted, in the literal sense of the term, into new 'theme' documents.
The value of these documents as a research tool lies in the systems of arrangement and referencing. For each interview, the extracts in a particular theme (including their original page numbers) were pasted in sequence, as they appeared in the transcript. These 'themed files' were then grouped together and ordered by interview number.
It is therefore easy for users to obtain text in a particular theme from across the entire collection of 444 interviews. Users may also go back directly to the source document from which any extract was taken in order to examine its context.
Finally, there were many cases where themes in a particular interview were overlapping and this was made apparent via a careful system of cross-referencing between theme codes. This means users are directed to related thematic information for any particular extract.
The original cut-and-paste segments may be accessed via ESDS Qualidata, at the National Social Policy and Social Change Archive. They are clearly valuable as both a thematic index to the collections and as a record of the primary method of analysis underlying Thompson's interpretation of the project texts.
In Qualidata Online the thematic coding system has been re-created and users may browse themes (in the Explore data section) for the electronic texts.