Thematic analysis of qualitative data: AMEE Guide No. 131

Michelle E. Kiger*, Lara Varpio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1318 Scopus citations


Thematic analysis is a widely used, yet often misunderstood, method of qualitative data analysis. It is a useful and accessible tool for qualitative researchers, but confusion regarding the method’s philosophical underpinnings and imprecision in how it has been described have complicated its use and acceptance among researchers. In this Guide, we outline what thematic analysis is, positioning it in relation to other methods of qualitative analysis, and describe when it is appropriate to use the method under a variety of epistemological frameworks. We also provide a detailed definition of a theme, as this term is often misapplied. Next, we describe the most commonly used six-step framework for conducting thematic analysis, illustrating each step using examples from our own research. Finally, we discuss advantages and disadvantages of this method and alert researchers to pitfalls to avoid when using thematic analysis. We aim to highlight thematic analysis as a powerful and flexible method of qualitative analysis and to empower researchers at all levels of experience to conduct thematic analysis in rigorous and thoughtful way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)846-854
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Thematic analysis
  • qualitative analysis
  • qualitative research methods


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