Inductive content analysis: A guide for beginning qualitative researchers


  • Danya F Vears Murdoch Children's Research Institute Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne
  • Lynn Gillam Children's Bioethics Centre, The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne



qualitative content analysis, inductive content analysis, qualitative research methods


Inductive content analysis (ICA), or qualitative content analysis, is a method of qualitative data analysis well-suited to use in health-related research, particularly in relatively small-scale, non-complex research done by health professionals undertaking research-focused degree courses. For those new to qualitative research, the methodological literature on ICA can be difficult to navigate, as it employs a wide variety of terminology and gives a number of different descriptions of when and how to carry it out.In this article, we describe in plain language what ICA is, highlight how it differs from deductive content analysis and thematic analysis, and discuss the key aspects to consider when making decisions about employing ICA in qualitative research. Using a study investigating practices and views around genetic testing in children as an example, we provide a clear step-by-step account of analysing text using ICA. Clear guidance on ICA will be useful for beginning researchers, especially those more familiar with quantitative biomedical and behavioural research, and for their academic and professional supervisors.


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