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Nurse Educator:

Teaching the Code Book: Preparation for Data Entry

Wolf, Zane Robinson PhD, RN, FAAN

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Graduate students report that nursing research courses are challenging. When the idea of a code book is introduced, they often are confused. To help students understand the contribution of a code book to an investigation and the connection between instruments for data collection, measurement, and preparation of data for computerization, the author created a teaching strategy on code book construction.

Graduate students often report in class and through comments on course evaluations that nursing research challenges them in ways they never thought possible. They acknowledge that the computerization of the data collected in research studies is especially puzzling. When the topic of code books is introduced, students seem confused as well.

Lobo 1 described a code book as a guide for defining and locating data during investigations. She pointed out the importance of creating a code book to organize raw data prior to data collection and data entry. Lobo provided much practical advice about code books; for example, she advised researchers to place their code books in a three-ring binder. She noted that researchers modify code books as data are collected and entered into a software data analysis package such as the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences or SPSS for Windows. Code books help investigators secure the meaning of the numerical values obtained during data collection.

When the connection between a data collection instrument, such as a subject profile form and a test of knowledge of cardiovascular disease, is explained in relation to values generated and the codes for individual items, students are frequently stymied. When code book is defined and related to a data collection instrument, students remark that it is difficult to visualize the links among codes for variable names to value labels and numerical values. The idea of code book is best understood when actual examples are provided to accompany the instrument used in the data collection phase of an investigation. Additionally, when the volume of the completed instruments of an entire data set is brought to class and the complete raw data set transcribed on coding sheets is shared, the value of a code book seems more comprehensible than before. Students have also noticed that the Variable View could be used as a code book as well.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.