Thematic Analysis: How I will Make Sense of the Data

Published by Heather Woods on

This week on the research update, I thought it would be useful to discuss one of my analysis approaches. For phase two and three of the study, I will be analyzing qualitative data through thematic analysis. In phase two, I explore how teachers in Ontario and Alberta implement social and emotional learning in their classrooms. In phase three, I will be looking at how social and emotional learning is integrated into the Ontario and Alberta K-8 curriculum. So, as we are moving forward in the research process, it is important to share how I will be analyzing this data.

What is thematic analysis?

Thematic analysis is not a linear process, so this form of analysis allows me to engage with preliminary analyses while still collecting data, allowing for greater depth of exploration. The method of thematic analysis begins with familiarizing oneself with the data, followed by generating initial codes, searching for themes, reviewing themes, defining and naming the themes, and producing the final report (Braun & Clarke, 2006).


  1. Familiarizing myself with the data: I begin with transcribing the interviews verbatim. Once transcriptions have been complete, active and systematic reading of each transcript will enable a more in-depth familiarity and understanding of the content of the discussions as well as the context.
  2. Initial coding: This will be conducted in Atlas.ti. This stage will involve looking for emergent patterns, as well as looking for trends related to the systems thinking theoretical lens. Specifically, I will look for human and physical resources, processes, tensions between experiences and feedback loops. I will engage in top-down coding (based on the research questions) and bottom-up coding (explore emergent themes that may be outside of the initial scope of the research questions). This approach of using both top-down and bottom-up coding will ensure that no unexpected themes or codes are missed due to coding using the top-down method alone.
  3. Creating themes: Similar codes will be grouped to create themes. There will be two levels of reviewing the generated themes. Firstly, themes will be explored to ensure that quotes fit the assigned theme (i.e., thematic homogeneity; Patton, 1990). Secondly, the themes will be examined to ensure that they work within the whole data set. Conflicting, deviant, or overlapping quotes and codes will be noted and reviewed (i.e., external thematic heterogeneity; Patton, 1990).
  4. Thematic map: A thematic map will be created to explore links between the themes. It will be refined as we continue to engage with the data. At this stage, each theme will be clearly defined in terms of what makes them interesting or unique and what they are and what they are not (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
  5. Writing results: Once themes are clarified and defined, they will be written up into a formal report (and shared here, of course).

General Update

Phase 1

I am still working my way through the full-text screening process. Below is the current progress:

Screened articles TI/ABIrrelevantFlagged for Full-Text ScreeningFull-Text ScreenedExcludedFull-Text RemainingArticles for Analysis

Phase 2

I have conducted eight interviews with Ontario elementary teachers and two elementary educators from Alberta. After discussing recruitment with some colleagues, I created a video to help give a face to the research. It appears to be getting views and interest, but no interviews have been booked yet. I believe sending out another recruitment request next week will be fruitful as the school terms wrap up, and teachers are more available.

Here are the current stats on the reach of my recruitment methods:

Platform/DateSharesPeople ReachedEngagement
Facebook – April 17th, 202013UnknownUnknown
Facebook – April 25th, 2020436325
Facebook – May 11th, 202011123
Facebook – May 20th, 20200110
Facebook – June 16th, 20206UnknownUnknown
Twitter – April 17th, 20209243683
Twitter – April 25th, 20205137743
Twitter – May 1st, 20202149453
Twitter – May 11th, 2020144110
Twitter – May 20th, 202012749
Twitter – May 26th, 202002433
Twitter (video) – June 16th, 20208108188
YouTube (shared on FB)Unknown61Unknown

Next Steps

I hope to complete the screening next week for the full-text review. Once that is completed, I will be able to start pulling information from the articles that fit my research question.

I will also continue trying to recruit approximately four elementary educators from Alberta.

Any thoughts or feedback? Let me know in the comments below!

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to email me at

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