Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology

pp 1947-1952

Thematic Analysis

  • Victoria ClarkeAffiliated withDepartment of Health and Social Sciences, University of the West of England Email author 
  • , Virginia BraunAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, The University of Auckland


Empirical research within critical psychology is strongly associated with the use of qualitative methods. In the field of qualitative psychology a distinction can be made between experiential and critical approaches (Braun & Clarke, 2013; Reicher, 2000), both of which involve some kind of critique of mainstream psychology. Experiential approaches aim to capture participants’ experiences and perspectives and ground research in participants’ accounts, rather than researcher’s categories. However, these approaches view language as a reflection of “internal categories of understanding” (Reicher, p. 3), and so assume it is possible to “read off” participants’ thoughts, feelings, and practices from their use of language. By contrast, critical approaches challenge what experiential approaches have in common with mainstream psychology – the assumption that language is only of interest as a description of inner states. Critical approaches (usually some version of discour ...

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