Coding, Coding...Gone

Coding, Coding...Gone


Data collected and coded: It seems like one of those moments where one sits back and reflects on what one has done or an optimist may refer to as "accomplished".

After completing the coding of all the fields in to an excel spreadsheet I decided to read the chapter in Lawless, Robbennolt and Ulen's book - empirical methods in law - on coding. I do not need hindsight to tell me I obviously did this the wrong way round, but fortunately coding is more stressful than it is difficult.

What have I learnt from coding?

1) Know exactly what you are coding - To a lay person this may sound simple. Take the variable in my data of multiple directorships. An onlooker may say "he is counting all the other positions the director holds".

It is however not as simple as that. It had to be determined what exactly was another position. Since my research focuses on not networks but multiple directorships I was specifically looking for positions on other boards vis-a-vis other positions where directors' duties will be owed and thus board positions. This still needed further refinement as I needed to determine whether board positions included charitable, trustee, advisory, governmental boards and so on. 

Similar issues were faced on the variables such as remuneration and what would be classed in to this category as well as the sub categories; or independence and how that would be determined. 

2) Bigger is better - collect more rather than less. Do things systematically was part of the lesson. Lawless et al bluntly point out data can be aggregated but you cannot "unaggregate" it (or at least not without re-doing it all again). For example, if I collected the data on directors' remuneration and rounded the figures up or grouped them in to ranges, but later found I wanted to work with the exact figures it would most likely involve recoding the whole category again. 

3) Make it understandable - When designing a database or in my case a spreadsheet, make it understandable. Do not try fancy names for headings, an example used by Lawless et al. Although, you may understand what they mean when you write them, it will be more of an annoyance when you go back to them three weeks later and cannot remember what the acronym stood for.

4) Keep a record of it all - All those decisions one makes need to be recorded. Who is being studied? What is classed as remuneration? Where did the data come from? These records allow you to show the data you collected is comparable and the methodology has not lead to some fatal errors.

So coding is not one of those difficult tasks. It is just one of those tasks that requires patience. Believe it or not, when companies published their annual reports they did not have my data and I in mind. Fortunately, there was a lot of uniformity across the annual reports as I was sensible enough to base my variables on the relevant pieces of legislation and regulations, unlike some other studies in this area. Where there was biggest lack of uniformity was determining whether an exterior position fell in to my definition of the variable. For example, some President positions were board positions whereas others were not.

What else have I been doing?

Since this is a reflective piece I thought I might as well look at what else I have accomplished since my upgrade from Mphil to PhD.

1) I have completed a first draft of a theoretical chapter of around 10,000 words taking a running total to 44,000. That leaves me with around 13 months to finish.

2) I redesigned my thesis plan based on my developments of the theory chapter and coding. Since theses are not written, or rarely written, in a logical order this undoubtedly results in the need to move things around; either in the plan or from chapters. For example, the first chapter I wrote will be my actual chapter 4. Part of that chapter details why the chapter is being written and encompasses some of the problems the thesis as a whole is trying to address. Most of this can be moved form part of chapter 1 in the introduction. 

3) I joined the academia network. I am still getting to grips with it but seems like it has some good aspects to network with people in academia and more precisely in my field.


For more commentary on directors' duties and shareholder litigation, visit Gibbs: Law and Life, a blog centering on directors' duties and company law, particularly on interpretation and practicality of directors' duties in the 21st Century.

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