General-purpose thematic analysis: a useful qualitative method for anaesthesia research

T. Jowsey, C. Deng, J. Weller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Designing the data collection
Before embarking on qualitative research, as with quantitative research, it is important to seek ethical review of the proposed study. Ethical considerations include such issues as consent, data security and confidentiality, permission to use quotes, potential for identifying individuals or institutions, risk of psychological harm to participants with studies on sensitive issues (e.g. suicide or sexual harassment), power relationships between interviewer and interviewee or intrusion on other

Data management
For data sets that involve 10 or more transcripts or lengthy interviews (e.g. 90 min or more), researchers often use software to help them collate and manage the data. The most commonly used qualitative software packages are QSR NVivo, Atlas and Dedoose.18, 19, 20 Many researchers use Microsoft Excel instead, or for small data sets the analysis can be done by hand, with pen, paper and scissors (i.e. researchers cut up printed transcripts and reorder the information according to code and theme).

Data analysis
Qualitative data analysis is ‘the classification and interpretation of linguistic (or visual) material to make statements about implicit and explicit dimensions and structures of meaning-making in the material and what is represented in it’.22

Several social scientists have described this analytical process in depth.2,6,22, 23, 24, 25 For inductive studies, we recommend researchers follow Braun and Clarke's practical six-phase approach to thematic analysis.26 The phases are (i) familiarising the

Who should analyse the data?
Ideally, each researcher in the team should be involved in the data analysis. Contrasting researcher viewpoints on the same study subject enhance data quality and validity, and minimise research bias. Independent analysis is time and resource intensive. In clinical research, close independent analysis by each member of the research team may be impractical, and one or two members may undertake the analysis while the rest of the research team read sections of data (e.g. reading two or three

Judging the quality and rigour of published studies involving thematic analysis
There are a number of indicators of quality when reading and appraising studies.28, 29, 30, 31 In essence, the authors should clearly state their method of analysis (e.g. thematic analysis) and should reference the literature relevant to their qualitative method, for example Braun and Clarke.2 This is to indicate that they are following established steps in thematic analysis. The authors should include in the methods a description of the research team, their biases and experience and the

As with quantitative research, qualitative research has requirements for rigour and trustworthiness. Thematic analysis is an accessible qualitative method that can offer researchers insight into the shared experiences, views and behaviours of research participants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)472-478
Number of pages7
JournalBJA Education
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


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