Thematic Analysis

How To Define Thematic Analysis?

Students often face problems in trying to define thematic analysis. The definition of Thematic analysis can be framed as a data analysis technique in qualitative research, which involves reading through a data set to identify the main themes and meaning from the data. The data set being analysed can be varied. It often involves different essays, articles, historical papers, books, plays, other forms of text, transcripts of interviews, movies, and so on. Thematic analysis is a widely used pattern of analysis in psychology and is used sometimes in fields of sociology, literature and a few other fields.

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Performing a thematic analysis in qualitative research is indeed tough and exhausting. It requires in-depth research, time, patience, effort and understanding of the methods and the concepts. This blog provides you with a guide on how to perform thematic analysis step by step.

When Should You Use Thematic Analysis In A Qualitative Research?

The use of thematic analysis happens in qualitative research wherein your research aims to analyse a text or a written material, or learning about the views or opinions of people. Data sets like interview transcripts, social media profiles, open-ended questions’ responses obtained in a survey, newspaper articles, films, etc., are often analysed by researchers by employing the method of thematic data analysis.

Examples of research questions on which the thematic content analysis can be performed are given below:

  • How has the representation and portrayal of mental health issues evolved in the movies in the 21st century as compared to the 20th century?
  • How are the paramedics perceived by the patients?
  • How are reports of racial discrimination presented by the media?
  • Opinions of the common people regarding climate change
  • Instances of gender stereotyping in media

Approaches To Thematic Analysis

There are different approaches to thematic analysis. One major distinction between the two approaches is based on the presence of a pre-existing coding frame:

  • Deductive Thematic Analysis: Students often wonder what is the meaning of deductive thematic analysis. It is the process of having a pre-existing coding frame or a list of themes, and the data is analysed based on this frame. The themes that you expected to find in the text are identified and coded. These themes are included in the framework based on existing theoretical knowledge and literature review.
  • Inductive Thematic Analysis: Many researchers have confusion about what is inductive thematic analysis. Inductive thematic analysis refers to the process of allowing the data to determine your themes. The themes are generated by the process of analysing your data, and no existence of a pre-existing framework is observed here. The inductive thematic analysis is data-driven.

approaches of thematic analysis

Another distinction can be made based on the data which is analysed as follows:

  • Semantic analysis: A semantic approach to thematic analysis involves analyzing the explicit content of the text or data.
  • Latent analysis: A latent thematic analysis involves analyzing the subtexts and assumptions made in the content.

How To Write A Thematic Analysis?- Thematic Analysis Steps

Students often face confusion and complications when it comes to writing a thematic content analysis. A few steps for acing your thematic analysis game are described below as a guide to help you. The thematic analysis steps are:

  • Familiarize yourself with the data

The first step in thematic data analysis is to go over the content once or twice and familiarize yourself with the data. You should be familiar with the contents and components of your data and not be surprised by any upcoming element when you are analysing it. It helps you get an overview and idea of how your process will work and provides you with a framework for development.

  • Code

The next step is to go through the data and code it. Coding involves highlighting and noting the sections of the content that reflect a particular theme. It is necessary to read the text over and over again to come up with codes.

For example, in analysing interviews of people regarding climate change, phrases and sentences can be highlighted which reflect codes like an acknowledgement of the climate change, distrust of experts, personal beliefs, factors affecting change, and so on.

  • Generating themes

The next step in the process of thematic content analysis involves looking at the codes that have been created, categorizing them and coming up with themes. Themes are much broader than codes.

For example, in the analysis of interviews of people in climate change, different codes like uncertainty, leaving it to the experts, alternative explanations can be clubbed into the themes for uncertainty; worry about the climate change, blaming it on the increase of pollution, going green activities, can be clubbed into the themes of acknowledging climate change and working towards a sustainable future.

thematic content analysis

  • Reviewing themes

The next step in the process of thematic content analysis involves reviewing the themes, codes and data analysed. This is done to check whether the themes generated are accurate or if any other changes are required.

  • Defining themes

After a list of themes has been identified, the next step involves formally defining and explaining the themes and how they help us in understanding our research aim. It involves explaining the codes that are included in the themes and the parts of the content which lead us to the codes and the theme. This involves discussing and explaining the results of your analysis to the readers.

  • Writing

The final step is to write the whole dissertation and the thematic data analysis conducted. The final dissertation contains an introduction, literature review, methodology section, results, discussion and conclusion. Feedback should be received on the first draft, and it should be edited over and over again till the dissertation appears satisfactory and well-written.

Evaluation of the Method of Thematic Analysis

Like the two sides of a coin, there are two sides to the process of thematic analysis as well.

Benefits of Thematic Analysis

Thematic analysis can be very useful in analysing and understanding any qualitative content. The benefits of thematic analysis are:

  • Flexible approach for qualitative analysis
  • Enables generating new insights and concepts from data
  • Easy to use for novice researchers
  • Allows for easy capture of unknown data in the content
  • Can be used to generate concepts that can be researched more by quantitative methods

Disadvantages of Thematic Analysis

There is a negative side to performing content analysis as well. The points for disadvantages are:

  • Subject to bias from the researcher
  • Intimidating to intercept what data is important and what is unimportant
  • Possibility of too many interpretations by different researchers

Thematic Analysis Example

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About Author

Nick is a multi-faceted individual with diverse interests. I love teaching young students through coaching or writing who always gathered praise for a sharp calculative mind. I own a positive outlook towards life and also give motivational speeches for young kids and college students.

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