The codebook

Once the coding of the questionnaire items has been completed and a computer data file has been created (cf. Section 4.2), the questionnaires are usually put into storage and not looked at again (except for special occasions when something needs to be double-checked). Given the general shortage of storage facilities, it is inevitable that sooner or later the questionnaire piles find their way into the trashcan, which will leave the computer file as the only record of the survey data. In order to make these records meaningful for people who have not been involved in creating it, it is worth compiling a codebook. This is intended to provide a comprehensive and comprehensible description of the dataset that is accessible to anyone who would like to use it. It usually contains:

• The name of each variable that has been entered in the dataset (e.g., 'GENDER,' 'LANGUAGES SPOKEN').

• A brief description of the variable and/or the citation of the actual item as it occurred in the questionnaire.

• The location of each variable in the computer record (e.g., specified in columns or sequence numbers).

• The coding frame for each variable, including the range of valid codes (i.e. minimum and maximum values) and the code used for missing data.

• A note of any special instructions or actions taken in the course of coding/keying the data (Wilson & McClean, 1994).

The codebook is in many ways related to the Research Logbook (cf.

Section 4.1.1) and could be, in fact, incorporated into it.

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