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Content analysis and thematic analysis:

Thematic analysis | a reflexive approach

Welcome to our thematic analysis (TA) resource and information pages. We’ve developed this site to provide a key resource for people are interested in learning about, teaching about, and/or doing, TA – especially the approach we’ve developed: reflexive thematic analysis. We (Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke) feature the resources we’ve developed (often with Nikki Hayfield and Gareth Terry), but the content goes way beyond those too. These pages focus on defining our approach to TA and addressing queries about TA according to the way we have conceptualised it. We hope you find this information a rich and useful resource to facilitate your TA learning and practice, as unfortunately, we simply don’t have time to answer in person the many, many queries we get. Find out more about us.

  1. »What is thematic analysis?
  2. »What is reflexive thematic analysis?
  3. »Different orientations in thematic analysis
  4. »Phases in doing reflexive thematic analysis
  5. »Answers to frequently asked questions
  6. »Resources for thematic analysis
  7. »Evaluating and reviewing (reflexive) thematic analysis research | a checklist for editors and reviewers

What is thematic analysis?

Briefly, thematic analysis (TA) is a popular method for analysing qualitative data in many disciplines and fields, and can be applied in lots of different ways, to lots of different datasets, to address lots of different research questions!

It is one of a cluster of methods that focus on identifying patterned meaning across a dataset.

TA is best thought of as an umbrella term for a set of approaches for analysing qualitative data that share a focus on identifying themes (patterns of meaning) in qualitative data. The different versions of TA tend to share some degree of theoretical flexibility, but can differ enormously in terms of both underlying philosophy and procedures for producing themes.

We have developed a widely-cited approach to TA that is theoretically flexible, characterised by its foregrounding of researcher subjectivity.

We now call this approach reflexive thematic analysis to distinguish it from other approaches to TA.Top

What is reflexive thematic analysis?

We now call our approach reflexive TA as it differs from most other approaches to TA in terms of both underlying philosophy and procedures for theme development.

We initially outlined our approach in a 2006 paper, Using thematic analysis in psychology. We have written extensively about our approach since then, and our thinking has developed in various ways, so do check out some of our more recent writing.

Although the title of this paper suggests TA is for, or about, psychology, that’s not the case! The method has been widely used across the social, behavioural and more applied (clinical, health, education, etc.) sciences.

The purpose of TA is to identify patterns of meaning across a dataset that provide an answer to the research question being addressed. Patterns are identified through a rigorous process of data familiarisation, data coding, and theme development and revision.

One of the advantages of (our reflexive version of) TA is that it’s theoretically-flexible. This means it can be used within different frameworks, to answer quite different types of research question.

It suits questions related to people’s experiences, or people’s views and perceptions, such as ‘What are men’s experiences of body hair removal?’ or ‘What do people think of women who play traditionally male sports?’

It suits questions related to understanding and representation, such as ‘How do lay people understand therapy?’ or ‘How are food and eating represented in popular magazines targeted at teenage girls?’