Theme in Qualitative Content Analysis and Thematic Analysis




data analysis, qualitative research, qualitative content analysis, theme, thematic analysis


Qualitative design consists of various approaches towards data collection, which researchers can use to help with the provision of both cultural and contextual description and interpretation of social phenomena. Qualitative content analysis (QCA) and thematic analysis (TA) as qualitative research approaches are commonly used by researchers across disciplines. There is a gap in the international literature regarding differences between QCA and TA in terms of the concept of a theme and how it is developed. Therefore, in this discussion paper we address this gap in knowledge and present differences and similarities between these qualitative research approaches in terms of the theme as the final product of data analysis. We drew on current multidisciplinary literature to support our perspectives and to develop internationally informed analytical notions of the theme in QCA and TA. We anticipate that improving knowledge and understanding of theme development in QCA and TA will support other researchers in selecting the most appropriate qualitative approach to answer their study question, provide high-quality and trustworthy findings, and remain faithful to the analytical requirements of QCA and TA.


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Author Biographies

Mojtaba Vaismoradi, Nord University

Mojtaba VAISMORADI is a professor of nursing science at Nord University, Norway, and an associate researcher at Swansea University, UK. His main fields of studies are patient safety and medicines management using both quantitative and qualitative designs. Mojtaba is the editor of international journals in the area of health sciences and actively collaborates in international research projects. He is interested in methodological issues surrounding the qualitative research design, especially content analysis and thematic analysis, and has published articles in international journals to help with the clarification of these two qualitative approaches, and making it easier for researchers to choose between them and perform a high quality data analysis.

Sherrill Snelgrove, Swansea University

Dr Sherrill SNELGROVE is an associate professor in the Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences and Dean of Academic Leadership (Research Integrity and Ethics) at Swansea University, UK. She has previously worked as a National Health Service (NHS) nurse manager and has over twenty years' experience as a lecturer and researcher. Sherrill has conducted both qualitative and quantitative research into chronic pain of older people living in the community, medication management of older people with dementia, advanced health care practice, health care professionals' experiences of stress and pedagogical research. She is one of just a few researchers at Swansea University, proficient in interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Sherrill has a track record in successful PhD supervision and is currently PhD supervisor to national and international students researching health and social care topics. A main role is leading on research integrity and ethics at Swansea University with a mandate to oversee and develop ethics, research misconduct and research governance procedures.




How to Cite

Vaismoradi, M., & Snelgrove, S. (2019). Theme in Qualitative Content Analysis and Thematic Analysis. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(3).



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