How to Do a Thematic Analysis

Introduction

The qualitative research method is one of the two methods available for research purposes. It focuses on using inquisitive questions to garner insightful responses, which, by performing interviews, will be used to collate information.

Thematic analysis is a tool used to perform research utilizing the qualitative method. Victoria Clarke and Virginia Braun initially developed it for psychological research purposes. But after its inception, thematic analysis proved to be a flexible method that can be used for other types of research due to its foregrounding of researcher subjectivity.

In this guide, we will break down the steps involved in conducting a thematic analysis and discuss other important details. So, let’s dive into it, firstly.

What Is a Thematic Analysis?

Thematic analysis is an analytic method that focuses on the identification of patterned meaning across a data set. It is a method of analyzing qualitative data that applies to a set of texts like interview transcripts (Learn about textual analysis).

Using this method, the research examines the data closely to identify common themes, ideas, topics, and patterns of meaning that repeatedly come up. Although a rigorous thematic analysis may produce insightful and trustworthy discoveries, there is just no unanimous agreement on how this can be achieved.

A whiteboard used for thematic analysis

When Do You Use Thematic Analysis?

TA is an appropriate approach for research when you need to ascertain details about people’s views, experiences, knowledge, values, or opinions from a set of qualitative data. This could be through media like social media profiles, interview transcripts, or survey responses.

The thematic analysis could be utilized when the need arises to answer research-related questions like;

  • How are doctors in a hospital setting perceived or viewed by patients?
  • In high school teachings, how is gender constructed?
  • What are the experiences of young men on dating sites?
  • With regards to climate change, what are the opinions of laymen?

The Different Approaches to Thematic Analysis?

When the decision to use thematic analysis has been made, the next step is determining what type of approach you plan to use. There are four major approaches popularly used by analysts to conduct thematic analysis, they are;

  • Latent approach: This is the act of making assumptions about data, reading into the material’s subtext.
  • Semantic approach: This involves the process of analyzing the explicit content of data
  • Deductive approach: It is the approach of data with an idea of the subject and where it is headed, based on knowledge or theory.
  • Inductive approach: This is when you go into analysis with an open mind and allow the data to form your perceived themes.

Steps Involved in Conducting a Thematic Analysis

When an analysis approach has been selected, the final phase of the process is taking the necessary steps involved in conducting a Thematic analysis;

  • Familiarization

This is a simple but not so easy process of getting comfortable with the data and understanding its content. It involves the immersion of yourself into the information by reading and rereading, taking notes, etc.

  • Coding

The next step is coding the data. This type of coding doesn’t entail the use of python or CC++. It just means transcribing sentences and phrases into short labels, e.g., I’m unsure – Uncertain, Maybe I will – Pensive, I wish I knew – Regret, etc.

  • Generation of Themes

This involves scrutinizing the codes created, observing their patterns, and coming up with different themes. These themes are essentially a superset of codes.

  • Reviewing Themes

This is the most daunting but vital process that entails taking a second, third, and even fourth look at the codes generated and discerning, which are useful ad accurate representations of the data.

  • Defining and Naming the Themes

After reviewing themes, the next step is naming and defining them by picking easily digestible titles and understanding each theme’s meaning and function.

  • The Write Up

This is the last step, and it involves putting your findings into comprehensible words and coherent sentences and paragraphs. The sections should include;

  • An introduction
  • Research questions
  • Aims and objectives
  • Approach
  • Methodology
  • Conclusion

(Need help with writing?)

Wrapping It Up

These are all the steps involved in producing an expertly collated analysis. Although thematic analysis can be very useful, it is also subjective. Thus, it carries a risk of missing nuances. This makes it is easy to miss and misunderstand certain details. So, ensure to reflect on your choices and interpretations during analysis carefully.

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