EAHIL2015: Thematic Analysis in Qualitative Research

interview-437026_1280Well, it has been awhile without posting – apologies everyone! So why did I choose to take this workshop? Well, I have a basic grasp of what content/thematic analysis is, well – I think I do, but I thought I should perhaps learn more about it instead of relying on presumption. I also had the recent experience of collating feedback surveys received from a course we run at work (I don’t usually do this job) and realised that when it came to the free comment section, I didn’t know what to do with the information.  If I had some basic knowledge of this type of analysis, perhaps I could extract meaningful information given during feedback. So what is thematic analysis all about? It is a qualitative research method that identifies recurring patterns, ideas or themes in recorded data. Professor Ina Fourie from the University of Pretoria led the session and before the workshop, she asked people to write to her about why they wanted to take the workshop. I responded, along with some others and these were bundled together for us to analyse. I found this a really interesting exercise to do, and also hard. What you have to do with your data is look at it more than a few times and perhaps in different moods and periods of time. You also have to ask yourself about your assumptions and biases and take these into account. No one is without bias.  Then each of us reported our findings to the class and this exercise demonstrated that different people see different things in data. Fourie said that she aimed to give us an idea about what was involved in thematic analysis as it is quite an involved process and requires many goes before getting the process right. And there isn’t any right or wrong answers to data – the act of thematic analysis is part of the research act itself. The process of extracting reoccurring ideas or themes is called coding and is a cyclical process where the code is refined and ideas reorganised along the way. Some coding can be built before analysis based on interview structure and the research question. When it comes to reporting, the methods in which the way the code and themes has to be explicitly described and the reasoning behind them too. So, could this method be used to extract information from free commentary in feedback surveys? I am a little uncertain about this. It certainly was an interesting process to go through. Perhaps I need a few goes and more knowledge about the theories behind it before I can see whether it could work.


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