Pros and Cons of Thematic Method

As it has
been stated from very beginning of this chapter, thematic analysis is a
relatively straightforward process of qualitative research, especially in
comparison with discourse analysis and content analysis. Thematic analysis can
be, thus, used even by the researchers who are new in the realm of qualitative
research analysis as it does not demand for prior knowledge on its theory and
techniques. Inspite of being an easy going process, thematic analysis do have
some limits that needs to be taken care of by an analyst before entering the
analysis process. It is to be kept in mind that the application of thematic
analysis requires trained expertise and should not be used in prescriptive,
linear and inflexible manner while analyzing qualitative data. It should rather
be implemented in relation to research question and data availability.

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Limitations in Using Thematic Analysis

The
pitfalls of thematic analysis are as follows:

1.    
Thematic analysis
is an exhaustive and time-consuming process.

2.    
Analysis demands
breaking down of data extracts to form themes that might result into loss of
context.

3.    
Thematic
reliability is a big concern as wide range of interpretations are involved.

4.    
Flexibility of
thematic analysis, which is otherwise considered as the strength of this
method, sometime makes it difficult for the analyst to understand that which
aspect of the data is required to focus on.

5.    
Data discovery and
verification may be clashed as new themes keep emerging even at the final phase
of data refinement and interpretation.

6.    
Sense of data
continuity is at times disrupted due to rediscovery of new themes during
refinement phase.

Inspite of its
systematic step-driven process, thematic analysis is the most flexible and
primarily used data analysis methods in qualitative research. It provides with
core skills for conducting different other forms of qualitative analysis.
Thematic analysis, through its theoretical freedom, flexibility, rich and
detailed yet complex analytical account has emerged as the widely used and most
effective qualitative research tool in social and organizational context.

Advantages in Applying Thematic Analysis

The greatest strengths
of using thematic analysis in research are, hence, enumerated below:

1.    
Thematic analysis
is an easy to learn method for researchers who are interested in doing
qualitative research.

2.    
It is one of the
most flexible method to adopt in qualitative research, and even can be
accessible to researchers with very little or no experience in this field.

3.    
Most applicable
for deep-rooted analysis, as thematic interpretation can go beyond experiential
surface of data extracts.

4.    
Allows data
interpretation to go beyond phenomenal level and reach broader perspective of
significant social context.

5.    
Analytical process
gives scope to work in collaboration and encourages participatory research
approach where multiple researcher can work with participant as coherent part
of the research.

6.    
Allows several
categories to emerge from data extract as codes to form collated and coherent
theme.

Challenges in Thematic Analysis

Thematic
analysis have often been criticised by the researchers of quantitative realm as
a type of analysis where ‘anything goes’. For example, the very first
sentence of Laubschagne’s (2003) abstract says, “For many
scientists used to doing quantitative studies the whole concept of qualitative
research is unclear, almost foreign, or ‘airy fairy’ – not ‘real’ research”.
Inspite of all the criticisms, it is noteworthy that qualitative research,
viz., thematic analysis comprised of rigorous techniques of data collection and
analysis. The British Psychological Society has given some fundamental
guidelines for assessing quality of qualitative research analysis, solely for
the purpose to curtail the limitations and criticisms as raised time and again
by the learned researchers.

Cautions to be observed for thematic analysis:

Braun
and Clarke (2006) with the view in mind to make thematic analytical approach more
scientific and free from criticisms have given few caution criteria’s in every
step of its conduction. These cautions, crucial to be observed to make thematic
analysis a good analytic technique, are as follows:

1.    
The data to be
transcribed with level appropriate detailing and the transcription thus made to
be checked thoroughly.

2.    
All data items to
be given equal attention at initial coding process.

3.    
The coding process
to be thoroughly inclusive and comprehensive, rather than being an anecdotal
approach.

4.    
Relevant extracts
for each theme to be sufficiently collated.

5.    
Themes, thus
generated from initial coding, to be checked and rechecked against each data
set.

6.    
Themes generated
need to be inclusive, coherent and consistently relevant with the research
topic.

7.    
During analysis,
data need to be interpreted in such a way that it implies to the research,
rather than being just an anecdotal paraphrasing.

8.    
The data collected
should match the analysis and the extracts should be able to defend the
interpretation thus given.

9.    
Analysis should be
well organised and coherent with the data and research topic.

10.  There need to be a balance between the extracts and
the analysis.

11.  Proper time should be invested to complete all the
phases of analysis adequately.

12.  While writing report all the assumptions about the
thematic approach need to be specified.

13.  The described method of analysis and the interpretive
report should be in parity with one another.

14.  The reported concepts need to be consistent with the
analytical epistemology.

15.  Last but not the least, the researcher need to be
active throughout the data collection and analytical process so that he/ she is
in a position to face any evaluation regarding the research.

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