Making sense of qualitative data analysis: an introduction with illustrations from DIPEx (personal experiences of health and illness)

Med Educ. 2006 May;40(5):405-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02467.x.


Objectives: This paper outlines an approach to analysing qualitative textual data from interviews and discusses how to ensure analytic procedures are appropriately rigorous.

Overview: Qualitative data analysis should begin at an early stage in data collection and be highly systematic. It is important to identify issues that emerge during the data collection and analysis as well as those that the researcher may have anticipated (from reading or experience). Analysis is very time-consuming, but careful sampling, the collection of rich material and analytic depth mean that a relatively small number of cases can generate insights that apply well beyond the confines of the study. One particular approach to thematic analysis is introduced with examples from the DIPEx (personal experiences of health and illness) project, which collects video- and audio-taped interviews that are freely accessible through

Evaluation: Qualitative analysis of patients' perspectives of illness can illuminate numerous issues that are important for medical education, some of which are unlikely to arise in the clinical encounter. Qualitative studies can also cover a much broader range of experiences - of both common and rare disease - than clinicians will see in practice. The DIPEx website is based on qualitative analysis of collections of interviews, illustrated with hundreds of video and audio clips, and is an innovative resource for medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Internet
  • Interviews as Topic*
  • Patients / psychology