Comparing thematic and search term-based coding in understanding sense of place in survey research

Isabel Cotton, Brooke McWherter, Thora Tenbrink, Kate Sherren

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Sense of place is a fundamental concept in human geography, yet challenging to measure given its intangibility and idiosyncrasy. Meanwhile, there are increasing opportunities for social scientists to utilize big data and automated approaches to data analysis, albeit with some wariness, but few researchers directly compare automated to manual analysis in the context of sense of place. This study applies two analytical approaches to a survey question on sense of place: semi-automatic search term analysis around semantic fields, and inductive thematic analysis. Results show high agreement between the approaches, with more tangible aspects of place (recreation) better correlated than more abstract concepts (appreciation). Variation mainly relates to the ability of inductive coding to address false negatives, implied meaning, or obscure search terms. This demonstrates the potential value of hybridizing to improve the accuracy of a search term-based approach, and overcome the limitations, such as subjectivities, of one analytical approach.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102339
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Early online date31 May 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

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