First the small print: I use the archaic term “task” to mean any behavior or motivator or reasoning that a person mentions. “Task” is limited in definition, but it’s simpler to say than any other combination of words that I actually mean, like “Behavior, Belief, and Emotion.” Just wanted to point this out …
During combing, I always use two levels of task: Atomic Task and Task. In spreadsheet format, this means I have two task columns. The reason for the two levels is so that if multiple voices blend together to say basically the same thing, then I can keep all the quotes from the multiple voices, but have only one Task box in the Tower. The reason I do this voice blending into one task is so that I can avoid having too many really similar tasks in one tower. I want to make each tower as clear, but concise (small), as possible.
Each task box in a tower might represent one voice, two voices, or multiple voices. Each voice has her/his quote attached in the spreadsheet. No one wants to lose those quotes. When I urge people to consolidate similar tasks, they ask me all the time, “But which quote should I delete?” I don’t want you to delete any quotes. Keep them, and group them into a blended-voice task with a label in the Task column.
Simply put, you want to begin combing transcripts by copying quotes out, marking them with a participant’s ID number, and then labeling the quote with a verb + noun in the Atomic Task column. After you have all the quotes for all the participants copied and labeled, then you begin comparing one participant’s labels to another. Start grouping Atomic Tasks together where they are similar, and label this group in the Task column, leaving the Atomic Task and the Quote columns alone.
Make sure each voice in a Task group is distinct. If it’s a set of three Atomic Tasks, all from the same voice, then just combine all those quotes into one cell. The participant was just repeating himself a lot.