Methodological challenges in qualitative content analysis: A discussion paper

Nurse Educ Today. 2017 Sep;56:29-34. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2017.06.002. Epub 2017 Jun 17.


This discussion paper is aimed to map content analysis in the qualitative paradigm and explore common methodological challenges. We discuss phenomenological descriptions of manifest content and hermeneutical interpretations of latent content. We demonstrate inductive, deductive, and abductive approaches to qualitative content analysis, and elaborate on the level of abstraction and degree of interpretation used in constructing categories, descriptive themes, and themes of meaning. With increased abstraction and interpretation comes an increased challenge to demonstrate the credibility and authenticity of the analysis. A key issue is to show the logic in how categories and themes are abstracted, interpreted, and connected to the aim and to each other. Qualitative content analysis is an autonomous method and can be used at varying levels of abstraction and interpretation.

Keywords: Abstraction level; Categories; Interpretation degree; Latent content; Manifest content; Qualitative content analysis; Themes.

MeSH terms

  • Hermeneutics
  • Humans
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design*