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1 For those of you writing dissertations right now using #thematicanalysis some thoughts on writing up a TA study. First, justifying your choice of TA. Try not to just recite general features of TA - it's flexible, it's accessible etc. - lifted from a list in one of our papers
2 These are not intended as rationales for using TA in specific studies but as general features of TA (compared to other approaches). The trick is discussing why these features mattered for *your* study. Why was it beneficial for your study that TA is theoretically flexible?
3 How did you make use of this feature? If you didn't, don't discuss. Also hold in mind a distinction between conceptual & design rationales & pragmatic & practical rationales. The former are generally seen as more important/compelling. Accessibility falls into the pragmatic...
4 So it's a less compelling rationale than conceptual or design concerns. Do you need to explain why you chose TA & not some other (similar) methods? Opinion is divided on this -I don't like this & I'll explain why. Often the selection of other potential methods seems implausible
5 You opted for TA but you seriously considered conversation analysis? Really?! That was on the table as another alternative method? You have all the skills & training necessary to use CA? (Unfortunately I have seen this, so not joking here) TA and CA have different purposes...
6 So they are not meaningful alternatives. Often the way the alternative methods are described is problematic & not grounded in a good understanding. This comparison rationale also implies that you've found the ideal method for your study & there is often not an 'ideal' method...
7 What is imp for me is providing a robust rationale for your choice - not explaining why your choice slays all the alternatives! Also hold in mind that because TA is theoretically flexible you must specify your theoretical assumptions. Don't use TA in a theoretical vacuum...
8 You can't use TA in a theoretical vacuum - we always make theoretical assumptions, it's inescapable. So in reflexive qual our research is stronger is we can 'own' our assumptions & explain them to the reader. Has your supervisor told you 'you can't just cite Braun & Clarke'?
9 If so - we'd ask why not?! Our approach is distinctive & quite different from other approaches, & we have written lots about it. Don't fall into the trap of citing different authors who advocate for very different approaches. You can't use our approach & Boyatzis (1998)...
10 They are completely different! When you describe your analytic process don't just list our 6 steps - describe what you did, your process. Hold in mind the steps are not a recipe to follow - following them doesn't guarantee a good outcome. You are the key to a successful TA!
11 I have to say it, even though I've said it so many times before, be careful of the language you use to describe the generation of themes #themesdontemerge This language can be heard as removing your active role in the theme generation process. Don't be afraid to write in the..
12 first person in the method section (unless it's specifically not permitted, it should be!). This helps to convey an active researcher. I also have to mention the conceptualisation of themes. In our TA themes capture patterns of shared meaning united by a central concept...
13 This is quite different from how themes are conceptualised in other TA approaches - in these themes are often understood as domain summaries, as describing what the participants said in relation to a particular topic or question. So themes report 'experiences of...'...
14 Or 'barriers to...' but there is no shared meaning, just a shared topic. If you have theme titles like this - are you reporting shared meaning themes or domain summaries. If the latter, is there something that unites the observations? If so, rework yr theme to tell this story
15 Don't be afraid to throw out your themes and start again - this is all part of the process! And finally we've notice that there are lots of papers with the sub-title 'A thematic analysis' - & this really freaks us out as this wasn't common before our approach became popular
16 So if you want to freak us out use this subtitle! Seriously though, good luck in writing up your research - you can do it! It's normal to feel frustrated, like you can't see the wood for the trees etc take a break, come back to it - you will get there.
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