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Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists

Phases in doing reflexive thematic analysis

The approach to TA that we developed involves a six-phase process for doing analysis.

Although these phases are sequential, and each builds on the previous, analysis is typically a recursive process, with movement back and forth between different phases. These are not rules to follow rigidly, but rather a series of conceptual and practice oriented ‘tools’ that guides the analysis to facilitate a rigorous process of data interrogation and engagement. With more experience (and smaller datasets), the analytic process can blur some of these phases together.

  1. Familiarisation with the data | This phase involves reading and re-reading the data, to become immersed and intimately familiar with its content.
  2. Coding | This phase involves generating succinct labels (codes!) that identify important features of the data that might be relevant to answering the research question. It involves coding the entire dataset, and after that, collating all the codes and all relevant data extracts, together for later stages of analysis.
  3. Generating initial themes | This phase involves examining the codes and collated data to identify significant broader patterns of meaning (potential themes). It then involves collating data relevant to each candidate theme, so that you can work with the data and review the viability of each candidate theme.
  4. Reviewing themes | This phase involves checking the candidate themes against the dataset, to determine that they tell a convincing story of the data, and one that answers the research question. In this phase, themes are typically refined, which sometimes involves them being split, combined, or discarded. In our TA approach, themes are defined as pattern of shared meaning underpinned by a central concept or idea.
  5. Defining and naming themes | This phase involves developing a detailed analysis of each theme, working out the scope and focus of each theme, determining the ‘story’ of each. It also involves deciding on an informative name for each theme.
  6. Writing up | This final phase involves weaving together the analytic narrative and data extracts, and contextualising the analysis in relation to existing literature.