After collecting qualitative data from in-depth interviews, focus groups, or field observations, students and researchers often struggle to make sense of it. This step-by-step guide draws on the authors' many years of experience carrying out qualitative research and conducting trainings on the subject. Their book describes how to analyze qualitative data in a systematic and rigorous way. The authors introduce and outline applied thematic analysis, an inductive approach that draws on established and innovative theme-based techniques suited to the applied research context. Chapters follow the sequence of activities in the analysis process and also include discussions of mixed methods, choosing the most appropriate software, and how to write up and present the results.

“This book presents what all of the books I've tried to use in the past have failed to present—how to analyze qualitative data.”—Catherine C. Schifter, Temple University

“This book does a wonderful job of explaining how important thematic analysis is for producing good research, and it uses rich and detailed examples to do it.”—Matthew Hartley, University of Pennsylvania

Themes and Codes

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Describe several different strategies for segmenting text for analysis
  • Describe the relationship between segmenting and coding
  • Outline the steps for developing a codebook
  • Describe the purposes of structural and content coding
  • Develop clear code definitions that can be unambiguously applied to text by multiple coders

In many books and articles that describe qualitative data analysis, there are references to “making sense of the data.” This oft-used metaphor for the qualitative journey of discovery unfortunately suggests that this is what the analyst should strive for—even if the data are problematic and can “make sense” only if interpreted in highly imaginative ways. In line with our exploration and mapping metaphor, a more accurate description is that of “locating meaning in ...

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