Philosophy in Thematic Analysis


For one of my assignments for my masters, I have to conduct a thematic analysis, which means analyzing a data set (in this case interview transcripts) for emerging themes about a particular issue.

As part of the assignment we have to write up our report. This involves us explaining which philosophical standpoint we approached the task from.

This gave me a massive sense of foreboding and worry, because I know literally nothing about philosophy, and I’m not that interested in it. Apparently, there are 3 ways of approaching thematic analysis; as an essentialist, a contextualist or a constructionist.

Essentialist = You take what the participant says as fact. Their reality is portrayed through what they say in their interview.

Contexualist = You view facts as relative, and they can differ depending upon different contexts. So basically, different versions of the truth exist in different situations.

Constructionist = Facts are simply social constructions, not permanent realities, and knowledge is all relative. I’m pretty sure science says this view is wrong.

The wise thing for me to have done was to research these philosophical standpoints before doing the analysis, but alas, I did not. Now I’m at the stage of writing up my report and I have no idea which one I think I agree with … probably not constructionist but apart from that, who the hell knows?!

I’m quite at a loss as to which to choose, but it’s vital that I include one in the report.

I really didn’t expect that it’d be philosophy I was struggling with during this degree!

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