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Template Analysis

Template Analysis. Developed by Nigel King and others.

The term "template analysis" refers to a particular way of thematically analysing qualitative data. The data involved are usually interview transcripts, but may be any kind of textual data. Template analysis involves the development of a coding "template", which summarises themes identified by the researcher(s) as important in a data set, and organises them in a meaningful and useful manner. Hierarchical coding is emphasised; that is to say, broad themes encompass successively narrower, more specific ones. Analysis often, though not always, starts with some a priori codes, which identify themes strongly expected to be relevant to the analysis. However, these codes may be modified or dispensed with altogether if they do not prove to be useful or appropriate to the actual data examined

See e.g.

Book icon King, N (2004) Using templates in the thematic analysis of text, in C.Cassell and G.Symon (Eds.) Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. London: Sage.



Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Developed by Jonathon Smith. See e.g.

Book icon Smith, J.A. (ed) (2003) Qualitative Psychology: A practical guide to research methods. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage.


Initial template construction

Authors of this page:Dawn Clarke and Graham R. Gibbs

Affiliation: University of Huddersfield

Date written: 29th August 2008

Updated. 5th July 2010




Learning outcomes

  1. Learn how to choose from the many approaches to qualitative analysis.
  2. Understand the value of collaboration and supervisors in getting started with coding.
  3. Learn the role of reflection in coming to terms with possible personal biases in coding.


Once Frances had begun to gather her data she had to decide on her approach for the data analysis. Frances undertook the interviews over a long period of time and therefore she began her analysis during the time she was still conducting interviews. This meant she was able to use some of the results of the analysis of the initial interviews to formulate additional questions for the 2nd and 3rd interviews.


Loudspeaker iconHear Frances explain why she made that choice:

I think my early ideas of analysis were very much influenced by my medical way of looking at the problem, at the condition and that’s really evident in the codes and headlines of a template. One of the reasons I chose to try template analysis as a way of managing the data was that I felt that it would be a way of actually holding that experience of mine, of recognizing it and actually setting it aside.  I mean I didn’t know if it would work but because of the fact that I’d had injury I was very close to some of the data. Because it wasn’t my experience, it was their [the participants] experience so I was very aware that there were different experiences but there would be, I guess, some commonness that we’d touch on, that it was important that there was something that would help me to flag that up.  So rather than just think I’m going to look for themes that are common and do it that way and draw things out I wanted something that was a bit more structure.


It is evident that Frances was aware of the influence of her professional and personal experiences. These experiences were used to inform her analysis but her choice of method also had the potential to help her to manage potential bias. She chose to use Template Analysis for her initial data analysis. This is a phenomenonlogical approach to the analysis of interviews developed by, among others, her supervisor, Nigel King. Like many other thematic coding approaches, Template Analysis uses a code book (called a template) that lists all the codes in a hierarchichal form and then the analyst uses these to code the text. Templates are typically revised several times during analysis to reflect better the data being analysed.


Loudspeaker iconHear Frances explain another advantage to her choice of method:

The other advantage of doing the template analysis is that you actually never - do it - start off alone. It’s you and another person, one or more people. So for me there was the supervision team, they were part of that process. And one of the things that I think [is important] if you’re doing template analysis that you do need to do it with somebody else.


This was an essential part of the data analysis process for Frances because it enabled her to understand her direction and attitude to the data, hence, once again her biases could become evident and bracketed off. Through this process there was the potential to produce data that reflected the experiences of the participants – not those of Frances- and consequently produce research outcomes that would be of value and relevant for the intended audience(s), which in this case was the medical sector.


Loudspeaker iconFrances explained how this took place and some of the initial outcomes:

One of the starting points for the actual formal analysis was that I took a transcript and went away with it and I gave a transcript to my supervisor who went away with it and started the process.  Then we both came back together and we shared what we’d got. And it was some very similar things but it became very evident that the way my supervisor looked at the data and the way I looked at the data was like two ends of the spectrum to begin with.  It certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t let go of that and move away from your original ideas and, in a sense, I guess from a phenomenological perspective, part of it is about being able to bracket your natural way of seeing things or your natural attitude. So we go back to the things that we know, but to let go of that that we see first and to look for our new insights to be gained.

Both Frances and her supervisor started with the same transcript, after the first reading they came back together and began to develop the template. Having two different views of the template enabled France to manage the different perspectives in the data, that is to say: her personal perspective, that of the medical profession – through her role as a health visitor - and those of the participants. In Frances' opinion this made it possible for her to produce a piece of research that was ‘whole’ because it encapsulated all of the relevant views.

However, despite the support from her supervisors Frances found herself struggling with the development of the template. She began to find herself ‘immersed’ in one way of looking at the data which was influenced by her medical background, when what she wanted to explore were the social aspects of whiplash injury. :


Loudspeaker iconFrances explained how she tried to overcome this bias:

on a practical level my head was full of stuff and I was looking at all these things [the different perspectives]. So I was just in the garden weeding and as I was weeding I was thinking about stuff, it’s just going round in my head all the time, but the weeding almost helped in one sense, the weeding I was doing in the ground was also what I was doing in my head.  I guess putting some space between me and the transcripts and the data…… I don’t write lots and lots of things down but I do  reflect in my head a lot about things and so in a sense there was that I’ll do things that are very mundane that’ll help me to just, you see knitting’s another thing, you know little bits of rather than just take away, if that makes sense.


That Frances was doing SOME gardening is not essential. What is interesting is first, that she was thinking about her data analysis even when she was doing other things and second, her use of the metaphor of weeding to describe how she was dealing with the large amount of data. She allowed herself to move away from her research and gave herself time to think.  This is an essential part of the research process and one that all researchers need to factor in when planning their research schedule.


One of the things that this reflection and distancing can do is to allow you to think more broadly and even fundamentally about the analysis. One thing Frances did was to go back to an analytic method she had rejected early on in her work. Although she still didn't adopt this approach, interpretative phenomenological analysis, she still found some interesting ideas in papers that had used the method and it enabled her to ask some more searching questions about the data she had collected.


Loudspeaker iconFrances explained how she looked again at some other studies:

One of the other things that I did was to go back to looking at Jonathan Smith's IPA approach which I didn’t embark on for reasons which are very clear in the first template. If I’d embarked on that all I would have seen and made sense of would have been things that I’d made sense of in the initial template, the medicalised [perspective].  So then I went back to looking at what he [Smith] did and I read one of the studies that Osbourne had done looking at pain, because there were some similarities so I was looking at how they’d approached that.  So one of the things that I did start to do was to then re read [the transcripts] and think: what’s this saying to me? What is he [the participants] saying? What’s going on here? What [are the] meanings in this particular section?

Frances was still slightly concerned about her data analysis method because it was not producing the results that she had hoped for. So she decided to go back and do further theoretical and research reviews in order to gain a deeper understanding about how she could develop her analytical approach.


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The resources on this site by Graham R Gibbs, Dawn Clarke, Celia Taylor, Christina Silver and Ann Lewins are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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