Helen, content analysis generally involves the study and interpretation of texts, documents, some of which may be in the form of audio and visual materials in a way that helps to determine the extent of their spatial, temporal and/or sequential occurrence. On the other hand, thematic analysis, as a popular form of qualitative data analysis helps in the identification of emerging patters from the set of events that one studies in content analysis. The reassuring thing is that both are applicably used within qualitative research as part of a process of meaning making and knowledge generation. Interesting.
Hi Helen. Thematic analysis is a form of content analysis. In thematic analysis frequencies can let you to interpret or "let emerge" themes from the corpus. In content analysis you can also be interested, for instance, to count verbs frequency to describe the interest of interviewes on future aspects be motivated to explore relationships of words to see associations of ideas, or study the language of participants. They are very similar in the rules for coding but the objective is the point that make thematica analysis unique in content analysis family. I hope this will help you. Best regards.
Hi Edison! Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my question! I appreciate it immensely and it helped me a lot! However, I do have two more questions now... maybe you or someone else can help me again...? If thematic analysis is a form of content analysis - are there any more forms of content analysis (very curious about that)? Could you recommend any good readings about content and thematic analysis? I have some articles that discuss either thematic analysis or content analysis but no text that compares both methods - I would be very interested if there is such readings out there! Thanks! All the best from Helen
Standardization of terms seems to be an issue here, but I will add that process seems most important. I think that in qualitative research, thematic analysis and content analysis can be one in the same depending on the number of steps we use and the type of qual research design. Content analysis may be more related to initial analysis and the coding process, where we look for redundant and similar codes. The thematic analysis occurs after the coding process as we aggregate the similar codes to form major concepts or themes. Ethnographic designs use a unique form of analysis because the ongoing analysis process looks for evidence in the culture or environment being studied and is not reliance on text alone. The content being analyzed is the actual comments and/or the way the comments were expressed (tone, body language, and more) in the social setting. I have published qualitative research, but did not use an ethnographic design. Maybe in the future if the situation calls for it…
In his books, John Creswell uses an ethnographic study (Finders, 1996) that you may be interested in.
Hope this helps!
Finders, M. J. (1996). Queens and Teen Zines: Early Adolescent Females Reading Their Way toward Adulthood. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 27(1), 71-89. doi: 10.1525/aeq.1996.27.1.04x0642r
Hi again Helen, Thanks Tim I really apreciated your answer.
Conserning content analysis there are also: enunciation analysis, speech propositional analysis, locution analysis, word relantionship analysis. I have to say that I used only thematic analysis to date. Maybe Timothy or somebody with more experience than me could guide you better with this. There is an excellent book that we use a lot in France: "L'analyse de contenu" written by Laurence Bardin (the only problem is that there is not an english version). I let you two other references where you can find more information :
David F. Marks & Lucy Yardley, Content and thematica analysis, in: Research Methods for Clinical and Health Psychology, SAGE, 2004.
Vaismoradi M, Turunen H, Bondas T. Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nurs Health Sci. 2013 Sep;15(3):398-405.
Hi again Edison! Thank you again! I will make sure to look into these other types of content analysis - I'm very interested in this field right now. And thank you ever so much for those references. Unfortunately I don't read French but the other two suggestions are exactly what I was looking for! Great! This is the first time I asked a question here at ResearchGate - but it's sure not the last time! Never thought I could get so much help! Thank you so much again!
Hi Tim! Thank you so much for you answer and for explaining your view on this! I very much like the idea of the process thinking here - with the content analysis coming first as a more basic way of approaching the data material, and then proceeding with a thematic analysis. It makes complete sense to me. I will read the two references that you suggest with great interest! Thank you again for taking the time to reply!
Dear Nick, Thank you so much for sharing this paper! That helps a lot - especially as I always (try to) use discourse analysis sometimes! Is it possible for me to use this paper and refer to it? Has it been published as part of a book or article? Thanks again!
One distinction that frequently gets made is between manifest and latent content. Manifest content is easy to recognize and code. Those codes often get turned into counts, which are basis for the kind of content analysis that is common in communication studies.
In contrast, laten content requires considerably more interpretation It is usually associated with thematic analysis.
Along with NIck's summary of Marshall and Rossman, another well known source on thematic analysis is Braun & Clarke, 2007. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2). pp. 77-101
Thank you David, for adding this further explanation! Now I understand what Edison wrote about counting verb frequency better. I like the idea of thinking of thematic analysis as a form of latent content analysis - it makes it easier to understand the distinction. I will read the text you refer to with great interest. Thanks again! /Helen
One thing to ponder and decide early is how much you want to be descriptive and how much you want to be interpretive in your analysis. This will guide your method choice.
For content analysis, the first distinction is between quantitative and qualitative content analysis (QCA). The origin of the method was more quantitative with counting of words or codes, etc, with roots in communication research. It then evolved toward sociology and became more qualitative. There are several different variations of QCA: conventional, directed, summative (ref Hsieh & Shannon 2005), inductive, deductive (Elo & Kyngäs 2007). Another good reference is Graneheim & Lundman 2004, which sort of synthesizes the different approaches, clarifies terminology and provides a suggests a transparent procedure to follow in the analysis. Then there is Patton and Krippendorf, two excellent books on content analysis.
QCA is predominantly descriptive (ref Patton 2004), but if you follow G&H's procedure they also suggest that you conclude the descriptive part with an interpretative part, where you have a clear distinction between your categories, which are descriptive, and your themes, which are more interpretive. If you want to stay close to your informants' own words you should primarily use a descriptive approach. But interpretation is almost unavoidable, and usually adds another dimension, so that might be a good option.
Regarding thematic analysis: One distinction between QCA and thematic analysis is that the latter is more suitable for interpretation of the latent content. Thematic analysis allows you to interpret even more than QCA, I believe. Braun & Clarke, as suggested earlier, is an excellent reference. Hope this helps a little more and good luck!
Thank you so much, Susanne! That helps a lot and I appreciate that you took the time to write this! I very much like the idea of a synthesis and that sounds very much like what I'm currently doing. I also think that the distinction between categories as more quantitative and themes as more qualitative is fundamental and I'm grateful that you point that out. I found some of the references you mention and they seem very relevant and useful. Thanks again!
You may like to read the following article to get the detailed answer:
Vaismoradi M1, Turunen H, Bondas T. Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nurs Health Sci. 2013 Sep;15(3):398-405. doi: 10.1111/nhs.12048. Epub 2013 Mar 11.
Thank you so much for recommending this article! I've just had time to read the abstract so far but this seems to be exactly what I was looking for - a research article that compares and distinguishes between the two analytical approaches. I can't wait to read the full paper! Thank you again!
Congratulations to a great article! I've started to read it and I find it very well-written and very useful! I will definitely refer to it in the methodological sections of my future publications. I especially appreciate Figure 1 and Table 1 that gives a great overview and really helps me to understand the very distinctive characteristics of the two analytical approaches! Thank you again for sharing!
I went online to ask the same question and found this amazing group of colleagues !
I am confused about content and thematic as well. I have student responses to a disaster that impacted them and I am using the 10 principles of a model that the students also used to 'describe' their experiences. So I have 20 responses to principle 1 and then 2 etc. I wasn't interested in any themes, as the theme is the name of each of ten principles. I want to describe their responses and use some of their direct quotes to highlight them
My question is: Can I simple describe their responses under each category/principle and how do I write that as my method OR can I do a thematic analysis of their responses under each of the ten categories/principles.
You are apparently very skilled in content and thematic analysis. Could you send me a copy of your article
Vaismoradi M1, Turunen H, Bondas T. Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nurs Health Sci. 2013 Sep;15(3):398-405. doi: 10.1111/nhs.12048. Epub 2013 Mar 11.
I just submitted an article looking at the narratives of students experiencing a hurricane. I used the pre-determined themes/codes from the ten components of the Recovery Model and also did a content analysis of their narratives, looking at the phrases that correlated with those predetermined themes. I am new at QUAL research and concerned I did not correctly analyze the data, despite several textbooks supporting what I did.
Thank you so much for the above Finnish article it has really assisted my dilemma regarding content and thematic analysis.
However, I wondered what your ideas were regarding whether it would be better to use phenomenology or thematic analysis when analyzing 40 women's experiences of somatic traumatic birth to address better intrapartum clinical practice. I have used thematic so far as it seems more straight forward. Any ideas?
I sincerely apologise if I have missed your contact or have not answered your questions. If you have any inquiry, I will be happy to communicate regarding content analysis and thematic analysis via my email address. You will find it simply on the Researgate. Best wishes/Mojtaba
This is what I've got from my Professor (Prof. Paul Jeffrey), just to share with the rest:
Important to distinguish (or not as the case may be) between thematic and content analysis -
Historically the terms 'content analysis', 'qualitative content analysis' and 'thematic analysis' have been used interchangeably to refer to very similar approaches to qualitative data analysis. The terms content analysis/qualitative content analysis are less popular among qualitative social researchers, particularly in countries where qualitative approaches have flourished in the last few decades, and where 'branded' approaches to qualitative analysis (e.g., grounded theory; interpretative phenomenological analysis) have developed and provided researchers with systematic procedures for analysing qualitative data. The term 'thematic analysis' is now associated with a distinctive set of procedures - the Braun and Clarke approach is the most widely used, but the approach advocated by US researchers such as Boyatzis (1998) and Guest et al. (2012) (and Joffe in the UK) has also grown in popularity over the last decade or so. Content analysis is less clearly branded, with lots of different versions and varieties (none of which are particularly widely used, within the qualitative social/health research fields). So CA and TA can be very similar/identical, or they can be very different: it depends on how people make sense of, and use, both of these methods.
My reading of Braun & Clarke's book on "Successful Qualitative Research..." is that it does not have much coverage of thematic analysis and certainly not anything more than what is in their 2006 article. They have, however, written several book chapters which are useful for the additional examples that they contain.
Thanks very helpful. I find thematic more inclusive and content more focused such that one can miss other items. Also read that content is more with the counts of the codes which TA does not subscribe to.
My understanding is that Thematic analysis looks at developing themes or codes without an intention to create frequencies. With the latter (content analysis), one creates frequencies of the coded information to see which one is more prevalent. I have used NVIVO to do content analysis
Hello Everyone, I just came across this thread while searching on thematic analysis and content analysis. I have viewed thematic analysis to be more flexible and open where the researcher does not predetermine the categories of interest. Conversely, I have viewed content analysis to be based on predetermined categories of interest. Is this correct? Thanks! Jeanette
Awesome thank you Jeanette! I am thinking the same. I think its really difficult not to have predetermined codes but I also think there should be a strong emphasis on reflexivity too. I am going for thematic analysis I think. Thank you
The approach that uses predetermined codes is typical called "deductive" (where codes are deduced from prior theory or research), while the approach that develops the codes from the data is typical called "inductive."
Most discussions of qualitative content analysis (e.g., Hsieh & Shannon, 2005) are quite explicit that it can follow either of those two paths. Braun & Clarke (2006) also say that Thematic Analysis can be either inductive or deductive, but all their examples in that article as well as their later articles and chapters are inductive. Thomas' (2006) "General Inductive" approach is nearly indistinguishable from Braun & Clarke, and as the names states, it is purely inductive.
So, if you follow the technical definition in Bruan & Clarke, then both approaches are equally option to inductive and deductive sources of codes. But if instead you look at what is done in practice, Thematic Analysis is almost always inductive..
The discussion of whether or not you being with predetermined codes is somewhat irrelevant to the decision of choosing your qualitative analysis technique (for example: thematic or content analysis).
Based on the readings I had on this topic, I can tell now that in the literature there are two different types of content analysis, the quantitative one in which you simply count the frequency of specific themes you find in the interviews and then you develop a questionnaire based on this (inductive and can be used deductively too starting form a questionnaire and then validating your findings through interviews), and the qualitative content analysis which is just another fancy name for the thematic analysis technique. Frankly speaking, I can't see any difference between the last two and the classical coding technique as in Corbin and Strauss (2008).
Content analysis is a research technique for making replicable inferences, and valid data with respect to the context. Content analysis relates to communication or communication content. The basic logic in communication, that every communication always contains a message in the communication signal, both in the form of verbal and nonverbal. So far, the meaning of communication has become very dominant in every communication event.
Discourse analysis is a more qualitative content analysis and can be an alternative to complement and cover the weaknesses of quantitative content analysis that has been widely used by researchers. If the quantitative analysis, the question is more emphasized to answer "what" of the message or text of communication, the discourse analysis is more focused to look at the "how", that is how the content of the news text and also how the message was delivered.
August Ernst Pattiselanno, thank you, that is a useful comment. How does this relate to thematic analysis? Would you say thematic analysis was more applicable in non communication content? If so what would count as non communication? I intend to use (qualitative) content analysis for analysing digital content made by learners in digital learning activities. This content would include discussion comments but also images, and perhaps video. Would you count images as communication? (My method would perhaps include using metrics such as Blooms but analyse in a contextual and common occurrence way in relation to other learner qualitative data.)
Both the approaches apparently sounds the same but distinct from each other finely on personal reflexivity i.e. individual beliefs, and acquaintances provide meanings to their behaviors which is further understood through the construction of codes and interpretation of themes elucidated. Both get to the difference in application with the use of apply analytical approach i.e. inductive approach and a priori.
The analysis of the content concerns the substantive examination of the content of a specific text, while the thematic analysis concerns the verification of the subject matter of a given subject matter in relation to, for example, a specific, content-related content.
Thematic analysis is one of the most common forms of analysis in qualitative research. It emphasizes pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns within data. Themes are patterns across data sets that are important to the description of a phenomenon and are associated to a specific researchquestion. Content analysis is a research technique used to make replicable and valid inferences by interpreting and coding textual material. By systematically evaluating texts (e.g., documents, oral communication, and graphics), qualitative data can be converted into quantitative data.
Thematic analysis and content analysis appear almost the same in their approach to analysing qualitative data. However, they have a sharp difference from the fact that content analysis is not only focused on the emanating themes, it can go further to count the number of occurrence of the themes or content in the data. Content analysis draws implications from both occurrence of the themes and the frequency of occurrence. Thematic analysis focuses more on the fact that a theme is present in the concerned data and the implication of the theme being present in the data. For most qualitative works, I will suggest thematic analysis as a method of data analysis unless the researcher is interested in finding out frequency of themes occurrence. Note also that content analysis can also be qualitative.
I was doing a qualitative study on health care workers experience of routine screening for alcohol use disorders, barriers and facilitators of screening alcohol use in the primary health care setting. I put "phenomenology" as a study design (approach) but could not agree with the advisor. can any one suggest or recommend me the possible approach, design and analysis plan for it?
Thank you much Dr David for your constructive direction and reflection. Thanks to Aysel too for your concern. Here are my details.
Purpose of the study was to explore problematic alcohol use screening and treatment practice at primary health centers (PHCs) having the following specific objectives:
-To explore health care workers experience and practice of screening and treatment for problematic alcohol use at primary health care (PHC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
-To explore experience of barriers of screening and treatment for problematic alcohol use in primary health care
-To explore experience of facilitators and opportunities of screening and treatment for problematic alcohol use in primary health care
As Dr David mentioned, I used semi-structured in depth interview. I finally end up with conventional content analysis approach a bit similar with thematic analysis according to some guides. Still, I am ready to take any comments to improve my work.
There are a variety of different approaches to content analysis. If you use an "inductive" approach and develop your codes from your reading of the data, that is very close to thematic analysis. In contrast, if you have a predetermined set of codes that you use in a "deductive" fashion, that would be distinctively different from the thematic analysis.
I come to this discussion when searching to find out the difference between content analysis and thematic analysis.
What approach should be used in the case of semi-directive interviews, which are conducted on the basis of an interview guide defining the thems to be covered ?
To my knowledge, thematic analysis consists in identifying and defining the themes that emerge through the participants' responses. However, in the case of semi-directive interviews, the themes are already defined, so we do not try to identify other themes.
What approach would you recommend when analysing the results of semi-directive interviews with an interview guide?
It's an exploratory phase of my research. I seek to evaluate and support my research hypotheses that are developed on the basis of the literature. So I have decided to conduct semi-directive interviews. To this end, I have prepared an interview guide that contains the topics to be covered.
The analysis of interviews by thematic analysis seems incompatible to me since I do not seek to identify themes. Therefore, content analysis (which consists of translating qualitative data into quantitative data) also seems to me to be incompatible.
In researching methods for analyzing qualitative data, I found that some authors recommend the use of Descriptive Method: Matrix Displays.
If you have already developed hypotheses that you want to evaluate, then I would not call this an "exploratory phase."
Evaluating a hypothesis requires specifying something that will make a difference in some outcome. In general, quantitative data is the best way to test this, which would require a content analysis to convert the original qualitative data.
Aysel Tüfekci and @NickJFox interesting attachments, thank you for including these as I can see them useful for working with my graduate students in research methods. If you have others, I would be interested as well in other step by step guides.
I can suggest an article thatr discusses the difference betwen thematic and content analysis. The title is: Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. You may find it useful.
Their main difference lies in the possibility of quantification of data in content analysis by measuring the frequency of different categories and themes, which cautiously may stand as a proxy for signifi- cance. ( Vaismoradi et al., 2013)
I think that one of the main differences between these two approaches of data analysis is that thematic analysis is more oriented to be used when the themes are still abstract to the researcher, and content analysis is used when there is a set of pre-defined codes or themes. In other words, the thematic analysis goes with abstract themes identified inductively through reading the text, and content analysis is employed when these themes are concrete and identified in the literature review.
I am seeking to analyse 3 bank policy documents which contain policies regarding employee advancement. The method I chose is the Qualitative Content Analysis as this will help me describe and interpret the policies that I am looking for. I have read that this method involves coding and I am not sure I want to do this as I may lose too much context. Please help!
The main difference between content and thematic analysis is that while in content analysis, researchers can focus more on the frequency with which various categories occur, in thematic analysis, it is more about identifying themes and constructing analysis in the most cohesive manner. Some researchers also highlight that thematic analysis can be more in-depth and provide a broader understanding than content analysis.
Edinam Eton, there are several approaches that you can take to coding in either qualitative content analysis or thematic analysis (assuming that you do not want to use the counting approach emphasized by quantitative content analysis). In particular, to preserve context, you might want to code for latent (interpretive) content rather than manifest (descriptive) content.
I have attached an article that discusses some of these options
Dear Colleagues and Friends from RG,
In my opinion, the difference between content analysis and thematic analysis lies in the fact that when examining a text, including analyzing a specific data elaboration or scientific work in the field of content, multi-criteria factors are taken into account, and as part of research instruments there are various criteria for evaluation, verification, etc. of all content contained in specific text. On the other hand, thematic analysis is focused on assessing the correlation of the topic of a particular work, study, publication, etc. with the objectives, theses, substantive content of a specific text, publication, scientific or other work. In the situation of content analysis of a large number of texts, ICT information technologies and the technology of advanced analysis of large data sets Industry 4.0 are increasingly used.
According to the Downe‐Wamboldt, 1992; Morgan, 1993, the content analysis uses a descriptive approach in both coding of the data and its interpretation of quantitative counts of the codes. the thematic analysis provides a purely qualitative, detailed, and nuanced account of data by Braun & Clarke, 2006. Helen Peterson
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