Qualitative Content Analysis Procedure

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    I am working on evaluative exploratory qualitative study (Doctor of Health Admin) and I am planning to use content analysis as my research design because I do not have much time and money to go in the field for interviews. I have to admit, however, that I do not have much experience with content analysis procedures. I am looking for the relevant sources, links and guidelines (particularly the fundamentals) in this research design. Can some one suggest, please?

    Michael Wasswa


    hi Michael:

    There are quite a few methods for content analysis. It’d be nice if you can specifically let me know the type of content you have. I am guessing you want to analyze some docs, right?


    Hi Muhammad,

    First I thank you for your willingness to contribute towards my dilemma.

    The purpose of my evaluative exploratory qualitative study is to evaluate/analyse a proposed national health insurance (NHI) policy/programme in my country. My study intends to answer the following questions: In light of the previous experiences is the proposed NHI policy/program likely to succeed or fail? What should be considered by the policy makers for the proposed NHI policy/program to succeed this time round?

    The background to the study is that in spite of various attempts by the government (policy makers) over years, a national health insurance programme has failed to materialize in my country.

    I intend to analyse documents including publications, government and departmental papers, journals, magazines for the appropriate themes to assist me answer the above questions.

    Here are my two major dilemmas:

    (a)  Is it me the researcher to formulate the themes/patterns for the analysis, or will the themes emerge from the content analysis procedure?

    (b)  What are the steps that I have to take to conduct the content analysis in this case?

    It is quite a long story- isn’t it!!!




    Hi Michael:

    It’s not at all a long “story”. In fact, this forum is meant to share our experiences, etc.

    For the above given research context, I would suggest that “thematic” or “deductive” document analysis can be useful for you. It is not very technical (like critical discourse analysis) but offers robust grounds to make  empirically informed decisions.

    However, please note that only document analysis perhaps will not be enough. You would at least need to add a few in-depth or semi-structured interviews with (i) policy-makers (concerned with NHI) and some beneficiaries or consumers of the NHI products.

    Happy going!


    There are quite a few titles on TA. However, you might want to read through one of the pioneering works in TA: “Transforming qualitative information: thematic analysis and code development” by Richard E. Boyatzis (1998).

    Katie Metzler

    Hi Michael,

    Maybe the question of whether you need to do interviews as well is something to discuss with your supervisor, as they are best placed to advise on big issues like that which could change the timescale and direction of your research.

    If you did want a book on qualitative content analysis, I’d recommend this: http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book234633?siteId=sage-uk&prodTypes=any&q=content+analysis&fs=1

    However, I think Muhammad has given good advice about using TA.

    Good luck!



    Yes Muhammad, you are 100% right. I am combining content analysis design with case study whereby I will interview physicians (service providers) in three hospitals.

    I find your above suggestions real instrumental in my situation; thanks a lot.



    Hi Katie,

    Margrit Schreier’s book of “Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice” seems real handy in this area. Just that, it looks like Sage Publication does not have it online (the entire book). In that case I will have to order the paperback version.

    Thanks for this valuable info.



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