Teaching research methods in psychology involves communicating a number of methods stemming from diverse philosophical traditions. The process of searching for themes is a central part of various qualitative methods of analysis and involves the transformation of coded raw data into a thematic structure. This process has often been briefly described which can create a problem for students who encounter qualitative analysis for the first time. The aim of the present paper is to explore how the process of transforming codes into a thematic structure can be described and communicated through higher education teaching. Literature on research methods and related teaching methods was explored and subsequently related to experiences of teaching and using qualitative methods in research. The essay-writing process was used to develop a language and pedagogical methods for teaching of thematic analysis. The reflective journey started off with concepts such as sorting and using visual tools found in the literature review, and continued with more active concepts such as abstracting and re-organising. I found the illumination of dominating epistemologies in psychological research to be a key element for understanding a more fundamental problem impeding students’ learning processes. The reflective journey ended in a proposition of teaching exercises aimed at encouraging students’ research creativity.


Research Methods, Social Sciences, Psychology, Higher Education, Qualitative Analysis, Thematic Analysis, Didactics, Pedagogics

Author Bio(s)

Petra K. Boström works at the University of Gothenburg. She is a researcher in developmental psychology and teaches qualitative research methods. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: petra.bostrom@psy.gu.se.


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my colleagues Jennifer Strand, Russell Turner and David Norlin for kindly reviewing and discussing this text.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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