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Thematic Analysis in Qualitative Research

Thematic analysis in qualitative research is the main approach to analyze the data. Research requires rigorous methods for the data analysis, this requires a methodology that can help facilitate objectivity. Rigorous thematic analysis can bring objectivity to the data analysis in qualitative research. Some researchers believe that thematic analysis is not a separate method of data analysis but rather it can help every qualitative research in the analysis. Other researchers think that it is separate method like phenomenology, ethnography, and grounded theory.

The aim of this article is to delve deep into the process of thematic analysis in qualitative research. Let’s begin with what is qualitative research?

What is qualitative research?

The use of qualitative research is very much common today in the fields of natural sciences, psychology, sociology, humanity, education, social sciences, and history. On the other hand it is also used in economics, journalism, marketing, and business studies. The aim is to study characters, behaviors, feelings, emotions, attitudes, and metaphors. More commonly qualitative research is linked with the study of human behavior. Qualitative research investigates through observation and collects non-numeric data.

Why thematic analysis in qualitative research

  • The approach to analyze data in qualitative research cannot be the same as in the quantitative research. Quantitative research focuses on numeric data and therefore the aim to achieve objectivity is far easier than in the qualitative research. As we can see that the qualitative research has a wider application there need to be a system that can make it trustworthy.
  • The major criticism about qualitative research is lack of generalizability in the findings of these studies. The use of thematic analysis in qualitative research aims at improving the generalizability of the study. Since qualitative research has been emerged as one of the main method of conducting research there should have to be exhaustion so that the results of a qualitative research are valid and generalizable.
  • In qualitative research data analysis is the most complex part of study. There need to be a framework that can help facilitate analysis of the data. Thematic analysis in qualitative research provides a sophisticated tool to achieve that goal.

How thematic analysis works

You have qualitative data that needs to be analyzed, in thematic analysis you identify themes in your data, label themes, organize them, analyze them, report in your research paper. It means that it is a systematic approach to analyzing data in the qualitative research.

  1. The first step in thematic analysis is to know your data and understand the elements that are more obvious in it. Know the type of data like whether it is obtained form questionnaires, interviews, observations etc. Understand and reflect on your data so you get familiar with it. You can reflect your thoughts as well about the data. Write down your thoughts so that you can later use them when you are analyzing the data. Also knowing about the data means that you are well assured that your data is credible and have been obtained in the best possible manner. You should make sure that no data is missing or lost.
  2. Know about the interesting aspects of the data set that can become the basis of your themes. Document these main ideas, codes, or themes from your data.
  3. Reflect upon the data and the themes that you have generated in the previous step. Now delve deep into the possible changes that you can make to the initial themes. The themes should be mutually exclusive and exhaustive. The themes should cover all the data set.
  4. Review your themes and review your first set of data that you received. The aim is to make sure that none of the data has left from analyzing during these steps. Decide about the final themes for analysis. The theme should adequately define the data that is allocated to it.
  5. Now name each theme and document them. It should be noted here that themes are identities that define a specific concept that is bound by one meaning. Themes provide identity to an experience and make it meaningful. Themes should have meaning in relation to the research question otherwise they are of no value. In this step identify the data that can be categorized and analyzed under each theme. All the data that is relevant to the research question should be analyzed under some theme. If there is data left that is related to the research question you need to have another theme.
  6. Now you are in a position to analyze each theme in detail and produce a written report of it. The data should be analyzed across the themes and none of the important data should be left behind. A written report should be developed for this data analysis. The analysis report should present not only the analysis but interpretation of the analysis of data
Thematic Analysis of Qualitative Data

How to achieve trustworthiness in thematic analysis

You can manage to achieve trustworthiness by following below guidelines:

  1. Document each and every step of the collection, organization and analysis of the data as it will add to the accountability of your research. Provide data trail and record it so that you or others can verify the data.
  2. Repeat each step so you can make sure that you did not miss any of the important information throughout the process of collection, organization, and analysis of data.
  3. Make sure that your findings are based on the data and its interpretation and its not some personal belief. This will add to the confirmability of your research. The researcher can include how and why certain conclusion is drawn to ensure confirmability.
  4. Brief each member of the research every step that is taken so that they can review. This will help in avoiding any error in analyzing the data. Self-accountability is necessary to ensure accuracy in research.
  5. Researchers can use any software to analyze the data. The use of software ensure sophisticated analysis of data and it also ensures that similar analysis techniques have been applied throughout the research. Software can analyze in depth and complex concepts can be easily understood through the use of software.


  • Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualitative_research.
    Retrieved on 2019/2/16.
  • Nowell, S. L., J. M. Norris, Deborah E. W. (Oct. 2017). “Thematic Analysis: Striving to Meet the Trustworthiness Criteria”. Sage Journals. Vol 16. Issue 1 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1609406917733847
  • “About Thematic Analysis”. School of Psychology-Leading Psychological Science, Scholarship, and Practice. The Univ of Auckland. Zealand. Retrieved on 2019/2/16. https://www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/our-research/research-groups/thematic-analysis/about-thematic-analysis.html
  • Komori, M. “Thematic Analysis”. Design Research Techniques. http://designresearchtechniques.com/casestudies/thematic-analysis/.
    Retrieved on 2019/2/16.



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