Posts Tagged ‘interviews’

Thematic analysis for interviews

December 17, 2014 1 comment

Recently I learned about the thematic map approach for analysis of interviews. If you are looking for information about qualitative research in general, interview types, and how to prepare and how to conduct interviews, have a look in my other articles: how to prepare and how to conduct a qualitative interview, part 1 and part 2.

The thematic map analysis approach is described for example in a paper from Braun and Clarke (2008). Perhaps you have already used the approach but did not name it as such. Roughly spoken it is a technique to generate “themes” from interviews based on keywords and keynotes that are generated in an iterative process, narrowing them down and ordering them hierarchically. A very useful tool for this process is a mind-map, but it is not required if you do not like mind-maps.

The following is a stepwise approach to generate themes from an interview. The process is proposed and described in the paper by Braun and Clarke (2008), but I left out step 3) as I found it overlapping with the other steps.

1) Familiarization with the interview – transcribe the interview data and read the interview

2) Start coding – start thinking of recurring themes and key events/concepts in the interview, read through the interview and gather all data about the themes, refine hierarchy

3) Review themes – go through the data again, narrow down themes, refine hierarchy

4) Check of the theme’s names – recheck if the theme’s names are clear and representative, for example if sub-themes and main themes fit together

5) Writing up the report – carefully select extracts from the interview that are most representative for your themes and use them in the report-text to support your themes

The authors emphasize the importance to clearly state the psychological approach the analysis is based on (such as the constructionist approach), because it is important for interpreting the results and you should use the approach to set your interview results in context. Further you should state what your themes are. They can be interpretations from interview statements or they can be on the level of extracts of the interview (without interpretation).

Speaking from my personal experience, I found it difficult to get into the process. My first mind-map covered a lot of things from the interview. Mostly because a lost of things from the interview seemed to be important while reading and making notes. It is easy to lose the sight of the research question and end up with a mind-map of summarized points of the interview. It is not as bad as it sounds to keep the first mind-map broader than the research question. I found it easier to sort out of a big mind-map than to add to a mini mind-map. However, starting from a broad mind-map will take extra cycles in narrowing the schemes down, finding a hierarchy and finding the correct names for the themes.

A mind-map is better suited to present a general overview. Beside the mind-map, it was useful to generate a table with each scheme in a column and in the rows below supporting extracts from the interview. It very much helps to structure the data, check if there is enough evidence in the interview to support your scheme and you see different aspects of the schemes in a glance.

The mind-maps can be created with any mind-mapping software, I used VUE (see below). Below you can also see the mind-map from the beginning and the final mind-map that I produced during my thematic analysis.

Mind-map beginning Mind-map final


Braun, V. & Clarke, V., 2008. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), pp. 77-101.

Lynass, R., Pykhtina, O. & Cooper, M., 2012. A thematic analysis of young people’s experience of counselling in five secondary schools in the UK. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research: Linking research with practice, 12(1), pp. 53-62.

TUFTS University, 2013. Visual Understanding Environment (VUE). [Online] Available at: