A1 Journal article (refereed)
A realist approach to thematic analysis : making sense of qualitative data through experiential, inferential and dispositional themes (2021)

Wiltshire, G., & Ronkainen, N. (2021). A realist approach to thematic analysis : making sense of qualitative data through experiential, inferential and dispositional themes. Journal of Critical Realism, 20(2), 159-180. https://doi.org/10.1080/14767430.2021.1894909

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Wiltshire, Gareth; Ronkainen, Noora

Journal or series: Journal of Critical Realism

ISSN: 1476-7430

eISSN: 1572-5138

Publication year: 2021

Publication date: 19/03/2021

Volume: 20

Issue number: 2

Pages range: 159-180

Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14767430.2021.1894909

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/89256

Publication is parallel published: https://hdl.handle.net/2134/17068178.v1


Thematic analysis (TA) is the most widely used method for analysing qualitative data. Recent debates, highlighting the binary distinctions between reflexive TA grounded within the qualitative paradigm and codebook TA with neo-positivist orientations, have emphasized the existence of numerous tensions that researchers must navigate to produce coherent and rigorous research. This article attempts to resolve some of these tensions through developing an approach to TA underpinned by realist philosophy of science. Focusing on interview data, we propose the use of three types of themes (experiential, inferential and dispositional) and the use of corresponding validity indicators (empirical adequacy, ontological plausibility and explanatory power). Using an illustrative example, we outline the conceptual foundations of a realist approach to TA and present recommendations for conducting it in practice. This approach, we claim, reconciles several existing binaries between distinctive types of TA by incorporating the contributions of both for the development of different types of themes.

Keywords: philosophy of science; paradigms; development (active); realism (philosophy); research; research methods; qualitative research; focused interviews; planning and design; analysis; evaluation

Free keywords: realist analysis; critical realism; paradigms; small q / big Q qualitative; data analysis; validity; study design; research quality; interdisciplinary research; methodology

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2022

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2023-27-09 at 10:16