Key Difference – Content vs Thematic Analysis
When speaking of data analysis in conducting research, there are many types that can be used by researchers. Content analysis and thematic analysis are two such types of analyses used in research. For most researchers, the difference between content and thematic analysis can be quite confusing as both include going through the data to identify patterns and themes. However, it is important to highlight that the key difference between content and thematic analysis is that while in the content analysis, the researcher can focus more on the frequency of occurrence of various categories, in the thematic analysis, it is more about identifying themes and building up the 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.
What is Content Analysis?
Content analysis refers to a data analysis technique used in both quantitative and qualitative research. This technique assists the researcher to identify important data from a data corpus. The data can come in different forms. It can be books, pictures, photographs, statues, ideas, papers, behaviors, etc. The aim of the researcher is to analyze the content of each data item. In most content analyses, researchers use coding systems to identify and categorize various data items.
When the content analysis is used for quantitative data analysis, it can be used to identify frequencies of data as well. This is why content analysis is now vastly used in communication and media. Now let us move on to thematic analysis.
What is Thematic Analysis?
Thematic analysis is a data analysis technique used in research. This is mainly used for qualitative researches where the researcher gathers descriptive data in order to answer his research problem. Once the data has been gathered the researcher would go through the data repeatedly with the intention of finding emerging patterns, themes, sub-themes etc. This allows the researcher to categorize the data under different sections. This can be a rather tedious task because the researcher will have to go through the data many times before he finalizes the main themes and sub-themes of the research. This process of going through data is known as ‘immersion.’
It is important to highlight in a thematic analysis the main themes that the researcher uses for his final analysis are connected to one another. If the themes remain idle without connecting with one another, it can be difficult to create the final structure and make sense of the research. There are many advantages of using a thematic analysis. Firstly it brings out the rich data that the researcher has gathered in the data gathering phase. Also, it provides a logical structure to the research as well.
What is the difference between Content and Thematic Analysis?
Definitions of Content and Thematic Analysis:
Content Analysis: Content analysis refers to a data analysis technique used in both quantitative and qualitative research.
Thematic Analysis: Thematic analysis is a data analysis technique used in research.
Characteristics of Content and Thematic Analysis:
Type of Research:
Content Analysis: Content analysis can be used in both quantitative and qualitative research.
Thematic Analysis: Thematic analysis is mostly used in qualitative research.
Content Analysis: Data coding is given a lot of prominence as it allows in recognizing the important data items.
Thematic Analysis: Themes are given more prominence.
1. Researchers review cancer data By Rhoda Baer (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2. “Bookshelf” by Stewart Butterfield – flickr. [CC BY 2.0] via Commons