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How to Perform a Thematic Analysis

Updated April 17, 2017

Research is an inquiry into the known and unknown. In qualitative research there are several options from which to pursue this investigation. Thematic analysis, according to psychologists Dennis Howitt and Duncan Cramer, is a progressive and recursive form of analysis that matures and transforms as greater meaning and understanding occurs between the researcher and the subject because the quality of the data becomes richer. Performing a thematic analysis involves getting the data and thoroughly examining the information gleaned from that data.

Use established instruments. Select tools (interview questions or surveys) to perform the study that have been proven. Reduce the opportunity for bias and misunderstanding by utilising data collection methods that are tested, approved and accepted by most standards of academia.

Collect data personally. The meaning and impact of data can be altered intentionally or unintentionally by the transcriber. Personally transcribe the data to gain a better understanding of the content and greater insight on its meaning.

Know the data. Become familiar with all components of the data. Read and reread the transcripts and note to establish the initial themes, then perform and review the coding. Reread the data again to identify broader more mature themes, make any necessary revisions to the coding and use these secondary themes as the basis for the analysis.

Analyse the findings. Analyse the information drawn from the master (secondary) themes across the entire data set. Identify, map, and highlight evidence and trends in the data that support and refute these themes and provide details in the discussion.

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About the Author

Jennifer Fleming has been writing since 2011. She specializes in project management from the beverage, manufacturing, telecommunications and transportation industries. Fleming’s first published work was a segment in Walter McCollum's “Breakthrough Mentoring in the 21st Century.” She holds an Executive Master of Business Administration from Georgia State University and Doctor of Philosophy in applied management and decision sciences from Walden University.