realm of qualitative research, one of the seldom acknowledged, but most
popularly implemented method, is thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998; Roulston,
2001; Braun & Clarke, 2006). However, being both dynamic and complex in its
analytical process, thematic analysis could be taken as the foundation method in
qualitative analysis (Holloway and Todres, 2003). The research analysts have
further argued that thematic analysis should be the initial analytic technique
for every qualitative researcher to learn, as it forms the plinth for training
of basic skills on qualitative analysis method that could be utilised to
conduct other forms of qualitative research.
out by Braun and Clarke (2006) in their research paper on thematic analysis,
the qualitative research can be categorised into two groups. The first group
consists of the analytical approaches that are related to some theoretical
framework, for example grounded theory approach, discourse analysis, narrative
analysis, etc. Whereas the second category is free from constraint of
theoretical framework, and is much more independent and experiential in its
approach to analysis. Thematic analysis belongs to this second group of
analytic approach. Thus, being independent of theoretical framework, thematic analysis
is a divergent, compatible and much more flexible research tool as compared to
the other qualitative techniques. Thematic analysis, therefore, help create a
rich, detailed, as well a complex account of data set.
its flexibility, thematic analysis, however, can never be criticised being
devoid of scientific temperament. The method of thematic analysis consist of
very specific and clear guidelines for its conduction, and these procedural
guidelines no doubt give the method a scientific vigour. Braun and Clarke
(2006), while propounding the six-step process of analysis in thematic
technique, have not only focused on the procedural concepts like “what”, “why”,
“when” and “how” of the method concerned but have also specified that the
analyst should have clarity and immense technical expertise to carry out the
analysis through thematic method. This touch of procedural simplicity mingled
with complex technical background gives thematic analysis a detailed yet rich
flavour in comparison to other qualitative analysis methods, and henceforth
makes it the most popular and widely used method for qualitative data analysis.
analysis, because of its simple yet rich data analysis process, can be
conducted within both kinds of research paradigms- Realist/ Essentialist
paradigm and Constructionist paradigm. However, the focus to carry on analysis
would be different for different paradigms. The analysis pattern for the first
paradigm of Realist/ Essentialist approach should be more subjective in nature
as this approach focuses straightforwardly on individual interest, motivation,
life meaning and experiences while analysing a data set (Potter and Wetherell,
1987; Widdicombe and Wooffitt, 1995). In contrast, the Constructionist paradigm
believes that meaning and experiences are social phenomenon and not completely
an individual perspective (Burr, 1995). Therefore, while analysing data within
constructionist framework thematic analysis leans more toward the
socio-cultural phenomenon and structural context, rather than the subjective
factors, from the account provided by the individual data.
is noteworthy that thematic analysis often involves a number of decisions that
are not always explicitly mentioned by the researchers. For example, the study
by Taylor and Ussher (2001) on discourse analysis provides a good example of
explicit thematic analysis research process, whereas, the study by Braun and
Wilkinson (2003) on women psychology does not mention much about the explicit
decisions involved while conducting the study. One of the example of a ‘bad
thematic analysis’ is where the analyst simply put the questions asked, in the
interview to the participants, as themes. In this example, no obvious
methodological procedure is implemented, or to say no thematic analysis is
actually done. To minimise occurrence of this kind of error as specified in the
example, it is worth noting and evident that to conduct thematic analysis and
to carry on with qualitative research, mention of the decisions taken and answering
the probable questions on methods adopted for data collection and analysis is
essential for maintaining scientific vigour of the study.
context, this chapter on thematic analysis purports to discuss the following
points in detail, with the intention to impart better understanding and
implementation of knowledge of the method, for the benefit of the young
qualitative data analysts:
thematic analysis, and its two major types, viz. Inductive and Deductive.
‘themes’ and its two major types, viz., Sematic and Latent.
Guideline for the
six-step process of conducting thematic analysis as advocated by Braun and
Clarke (2006), through early study example (Nicholas and McDowall, 2012).
challenges of thematic analysis and how to make thematic analysis good.
pitfalls to avoid when conducting thematic analysis for a particular data set,
through discussing the pros and cons of the method.
The applications, implications
and recommendations for thematic analysis within qualitative research forte.