I’m convinced that getting the labels “right” for the quotes will make the mental model method easier than many other analysis methods. The best labels keep you out of the traps that make your mind loop and loop over the same questions: “This could mean two things!” “This is factual, but what do I do with it?” “This needs to sound more academic, so my bosses will respect it.” As you are combing through the transcripts, you want to stay close to the participant talking, and you want to label all their quotes with a verb that is first-person, present tense.
A friend of mine, Karen Lindemann from Hamburg, Germany, is helping me out with a mental model about how people communicate with each other on a daily basis. When she read about verb+noun labels, she assumed I meant the infinitive form of the verb: “To tell,” “To decide,” “To worry.” It wasn’t working very well in her native language and felt clumsy to her, which is when I asked her to use first-person verbs and to bring the personal pronoun “I” into the label. “Now I think I understand why I had difficulties,” Karen laughs. Here are some of her new examples:
The most important thing to remember is to keep the verb first-person (“I”) present tense (“walk, sing, wonder, worry,” etc.). I frequently encounter people using third-person (“he, she”) and past tense (“walked, sang”) or gerund form (“wondering, worrying”). These examples put a barrier between you (the researcher) and the participant. Instead, I want you to step
through the barrier and become the participant for a while, when combing the transcripts.
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