Qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis are two commonly used approaches
in data analysis of nursing research, but boundaries between the two have not been
clearly specified. In other words, they are being used interchangeably and it seems
difficult for the researcher to choose between them. In this respect, this paper describes
and discusses the boundaries between qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis
and presents implications to improve the consistency between the purpose of related
studies and the method of data analyses. This is a discussion paper, comprising an
analytical overview and discussion of the definitions, aims, philosophical background,
data gathering, and analysis of content analysis and thematic analysis, and addressing
their methodological subtleties. It is concluded that in spite of many similarities
between the approaches, including cutting across data and searching for patterns and
themes, their main difference lies in the opportunity for quantification of data.
It means that measuring the frequency of different categories and themes is possible
in content analysis with caution as a proxy for significance.
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