Using Microsoft Excel to code and thematically analyse qualitative data: a simple, cost-effective approach.

Ronan T. Bree, Gerry Gallagher


As the number of learning and teaching continuing professional development (CPD) courses increases in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), so too does the accompanying number of learning innovations being implemented and evaluated.  The evaluation process requires valid and reliable data collection and analysis procedures to be established.  In many cases, qualitative methods such as interviews, focus groups and free-text responses are employed for this purpose.  These methods generate large volumes of data, which must be coded and analysed in a thorough and professional manner.  While commercial software packages can assist in this analysis, in a difficult economic climate, the cost of campus-wide licenses for such can be quite prohibitive.  In a recent publication aimed at enhancing the learning environment in practical sessions, Bree et al. (2014) implemented a simple, cost-effective technology-based analysis of captured focus group data with a widely used software suite.  This report describes in detail the qualitative data analysis process designed and implemented by the two authors (a link to a screencast outlining the method is also provided).  Ensuring data analysis processes are performed correctly will generate valid data, leading to an increase in the number of peer-reviewed publications describing learning and teaching innovations; with each of these ultimately enhancing the learning environment for students and developing higher-quality graduates.  It is hoped this report will assist educators enrolling on learning and teaching courses, or those performing research projects in the area who are considering employing qualitative evaluation methods.  


Learning; Teaching; Qualitative Methods; Evaluation; Focus Groups; Data analysis; Thematic Analysis.

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