Network methods to support user involvement in qualitative data analyses: an introduction to Participatory Theme Elicitation

Trials. 2017 Nov 23;18(1):559. doi: 10.1186/s13063-017-2289-5.


Background: While Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) is encouraged throughout the research process, engagement is typically limited to intervention design and post-analysis stages. There are few approaches to participatory data analyses within complex health interventions.

Methods: Using qualitative data from a feasibility randomised controlled trial (RCT), this proof-of-concept study tests the value of a new approach to participatory data analysis called Participatory Theme Elicitation (PTE). Forty excerpts were given to eight members of a youth advisory PPI panel to sort into piles based on their perception of related thematic content. Using algorithms to detect communities in networks, excerpts were then assigned to a thematic cluster that combined the panel members' perspectives. Network analysis techniques were also used to identify key excerpts in each grouping that were then further explored qualitatively.

Results: While PTE analysis was, for the most part, consistent with the researcher-led analysis, young people also identified new emerging thematic content.

Conclusions: PTE appears promising for encouraging user led identification of themes arising from qualitative data collected during complex interventions. Further work is required to validate and extend this method.

Trial registration:, ID: NCT02455986 . Retrospectively Registered on 21 May 2015.

Keywords: Network analysis; Participatory analysis; Patient and public involvement; Trials; User involvement.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Community-Based Participatory Research / methods*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Exercise
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Healthy Lifestyle*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Male
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design
  • Research Personnel / psychology*
  • School Health Services*
  • Systems Analysis*

Associated data