Thematic analysis is a poorly demarcated, rarely-acknowledged, yet widely-used qualitative analytic method within psychology. In this paper, we argue that it offers an accessible and theoretically-flexible approach to analysing qualitative data. We outline what thematic analysis is, locating it in relation to other qualitative analytic methods that search for themes or patterns, and in relation to different epistemological and ontological positions. We then provide clear guidelines to those wanting to start thematic analysis, or conduct it in a more deliberate and rigorous way, and consider potential pitfalls in conducting thematic analysis. Finally, we outline the disadvantages and advantages of thematic analysis. We conclude by advocating thematic analysis as a useful and flexible method for qualitative research in and beyond psychology.
Keywords: thematic analysis, qualitative psychology, patterns, epistemology, flexibility
Braun, V. and Clarke, V., 2006
A very brief introduction to TA for researchers in the field of positive psychology.
- Terry, G., Hayfield, N., Clarke, V. & Braun, V. (in press, 2017). Thematic analysis. In Willig, C. & Stainton-Rogers (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research in psychology, 2nd edition. London: Sage.
A general introduction to TA that includes a discussion of the history and development of TA and maps the terrain of TA (as we see it), also includes a detailed worked example using interview data from a study of women’s experiences of being childfree
A commentary on Fugard and Potts’ (2015) paper proposing a power analysis tool for determining sample size in TA research. We identify various problematic assumptions underpinning this tool, and Fugard and Potts’ conceptualisation of TA and themes, and explain why the tool is not appropriate for use in our version of TA.
This chapter discusses the use of TA in the context of sport and exercise research and provides a worked example of coding and theme development using focus group data from a broadly experiential study of women’s perspectives on, and experiences of, exercise.
A general introduction to TA including a worked example of coding and theme development using qualitative survey data from the study of gay men’s sense-making around their clothing and appearance practices.
- Huxley, C., Clarke, V. & Halliwell, E. (2016). Report 2: Are lesbian and bisexual women ‘protected’ from sociocultural pressure to be thin? A reflective account of a thematic analysis study. In E. Lyons & A. Coyle, (Eds.), Analysing Qualitative Data in Psychology(2nd ed.) (pp. 306-321). London: Sage.
A condensed version of a paper originally published in the Journal of Health Psychology (2014) with reflective commentary written by the first author addressing various aspects of the research process and the written report.
A chapter-length worked example of TA using the interview accounts of two men who had transitioned from the army to civilian life.
A general introduction to TA including a worked example of coding and theme development using qualitative interview data from a study of bisexual women’s visual identities.
A very brief introduction to TA for researchers in the field of health and well-being research.
An introduction to TA for researchers in the field of counselling and psychotherapy research, with a worked example of a TA of interview data from a study of lived experiences of treatment/therapy for anorexia.
An introduction to TA for researchers in clinical and health psychology, and featuring worked examples of coding and theme development from an interview study of sexual health professionals’ views on impediments to sexual health in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
A brief discussion of TA for critical psychologists, including a consideration of the potential of TA as a method for critical psychology.
A very brief introduction to TA for quality of life and well-being research.
Our qualitative textbook that includes our most detailed account of TA to-date, including a worked example of TA using a focus group discussion on the ‘so-called’ obesity crisis. The companion website includes various data sets that can be used in teaching TA.
A paper that considers some of the challenges of teaching TA to psychology undergraduates and outlines some strategies for maximising the often limited curriculum time dedicated to the teaching of qualitative methods in psychology.
- Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2012). Thematic analysis. In H. Cooper, P. M. Camic, D. L. Long, A. T. Panter, D. Rindskopf, & K. J. Sher (Eds), APA handbook of research methods in psychology, Vol. 2: Research designs: Quantitative, qualitative, neuropsychological, and biological (pp. 57-71). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
A general introduction to TA, including a detailed worked example using interview data from a study exploring gay student’s experiences of university life.
The original paper in which we outlined our approach to TA; reprinted in: B. Gough (Ed.), (2014). Qualitative research in psychology. London: Sage.