UCL Institute of Health Informatics


'Shine bright like a diamond?' 

13 July 2016

Last year, Dr Andy Fugard (UCL Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology) and Dr Henry Potts (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) published a paper describing a quantitative method to support thinking on the sample size required in some qualitative studies (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13645579.2015.1005453). The paper attracted considerable interest and has already become the third most downloaded article in the journal’s history. However, debate has raged over the validity of the method. In a recent commentary, Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke, authors of a well-known textbook on qualitative research, questioned the approach (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13645579.2016.1195588). Now published is Fugard and Potts’ reply to Braun and Clarke, which further explores the theory behind their method.

The title, ‘Shine bright like a diamond’ (a line from a song by Rihanna), references a debate around thematic analysis. Are themes something that are found unproblematically in qualitative data? That is, are they like diamonds plucked from the sand? Or are themes something constructed by the researcher from the varied accounts in their data? Fugard and Potts accept Braun and Clarke’s argument that the latter better describes the process of thematic analysis, but go on to argue that this does not invalidate their method, which is based on a probabilistic model of how often accounts might occur in an interview or other data collection method.

Fugard AJB, Potts HWW. ‘Shine bright like a diamond’? A reply to Braun and Clarke. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 2016 (published online on 11 July). DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2016.1205794