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How to write a thematic analysis

Updated February 21, 2017

A thematic analysis can be used in two different fields: literature critique and qualitative analysis of data. In one sense, the use of thematic analysis in either field is the same; it requires that you determine the frequency of appearance of a theme or a type of data. To write a thematic analysis, you should have gathered all your data and be familiar with it, or you should have read the literature that you'll be analysing.

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  1. Identify the theme you're going to analyse in the work of literature.

  2. Start with a description of the theme, why it's important to understanding or analysing the literature, and give a summary of your argument.

  3. Provide specific examples of where the theme appears in the literature. Think about imagery, dialogue, actions and any other description in which the author uses the theme you've chosen.

  4. Cite the examples as you describe them in the paper. Detail how the author's use of the theme in a specific section affects the overall story, mood, action, characterisation or other aspects of the piece of work.

  5. Conclude the paper with a summary of what your paper has discussed. You can also suggest possible future topics of analysis.

  6. Code your data. In simplest terms, this means sorting the data into "like" terms and applying a description to those terms. For example, if you were analysing the frequency of crime in an area, you might code violent versus nonviolent crimes. As an alternative, you could get more detailed and code the crimes by multiple criteria such as sex, age and race of the perpetrator; time to arrest and conviction; dollar amount of loss or damages; or any other categories that are relevant to your research topic.

  7. Start the paper with an overview of your research question. Follow that with a review of your research methods and the means by which you gathered your data.

  8. Identify patterns in the data, also called "themes." Look for frequency of occurrence; occurrence only when certain factors are present; time of day, week or month of occurrence; or any other patterns your data reveals. Point out these themes in your paper. Include any visual data that will help readers see the patterns.

  9. End the paper with your conclusions based on the data patterns you found. Also make suggestions for what future research should be done to confirm your conclusions or to expand on the information you've identified.

  10. Tip

    Your professor will usually give you a preferred structure for your thematic analysis, so be sure you follow any additional instructions.

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About the Author

Jean Asta

Jean Asta has been a freelance writer for domestic and international clients since 2005. She also acts as a training consultant to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the southeast United States. Asta holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, both from the University of Georgia.

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