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Thematic Analysis in Exploring Friendship

  • 07 Pages
  • Published On: 02-12-2023


The essence of qualitative study is to develop knowledge based on human experience. This implies that after collecting relevant qualitative data (through survey questionnaires or other means), researchers identify and implement data analysis approaches that preserves those human experiences and converts them into useful conclusions through analysis (Braun & Clarke 2019). According to Terry et al (2017), this is the reason why most researchers prefer thematic analysis as a technique for analysing qualitative data. In the current study, we will use thematic analysis to analyse the interview extracts through a process that will identify and explain what the respondents said, what they meant and how they relate to responses given by other respondents. Through thematic analysis, this study seeks to investigate the concept of friendship by answering the research question: what the different ways in which people are make and maintain friendship? One of the reasons why thematic themes is considered appropriate for this study is that it enhances the transparency with which the results are created as well as its ability to facilitate specific, accurate and actionable analysis of qualitative data (Nowell et al, 2017). That said, the study will predominantly rely on Braun and Clarke’s guidelines of thematic analysis. Based on the guidelines, the first step of the process will include gaining a familiarity with the data before generating initial codes and searching for relevant themes. Afterwards, the analysis process will include a review of the themes and a definition of themes before finally doing the write-up.



The analysis took a broader view of the concept of friendship, identifying different themes including types of friendship, different characteristics of friendships such as trust, security, sharing, socialization, enjoyment, respect, problem solving and help seeking. A major sub theme that emerged throughout the interviews is that of emotions, which was demonstrate by codes such as happiness and trust. Ultimately, a major conclusion drawn from this research study is that friendship has different facets and not all friends have similar personalities.

Types of friendships

The two interviewees mentioned clearly that there are different types of friendships, some meant to socialize, others for humour, to feel secure. While others due to proximity. For example, when asked how they made friends with their colleagues, the responses given by both interviewees indicated that their friendship emerged out of proximity. One respondent noted that she made friends out of joining university, then later noticed that they share a few things in common.

Er I’ve met a good friend from university, I’ve not known her long, but I class her now as a friend [INT: yeah] kind of thing, we’re both mums and we both you know we’re on the phone all the time…(Extract 1, Deborah) The other respondent also hinted to proximity as the main purpose of friendship by noting that she made friends when her colleague moved in from Germany and they happened to meet Ehm I think we were about six and she’d just moved over from Germany and we just happened to meet and she, the first things she said to me was “I know English” and I thought (Extract 2, Shazia)

These responses speak to proximity as a major reason why people create friendship. From the responses, it is possible to deduce that individuals tend to form interparesonal relations with people who are close to them. In short, closeness enables people to encounter each other more frequently and this makes them to develop stronger relationships among themselves. But closeness also seems to create an interaction between individuals, who may also end up disliking each other. For instance, one of the interviewees noted that while she enjoyed time with both girls and boys, she grew to hate the boys because of their characters. The respondent said that: then after that it all started, like all the girls we all stayed close, like we’ve got five of us, so then we’d all be just like getting a bit annoyed with the boys cause they were pretty nasty [laughs] (Extract 3, Deborah).

This response reveals how increased contact between individuals can reveal detestable traits – confirming the famous saying that familiarity breeds contempt. Nonetheless, these findings have clearly demonstrated that interaction, rather than proximity, creates attraction. As it is expected, the theme of proximity and how it applies to friendship makes practical sense because it influences the people one meets and whom they befriend.

Common experiences and tastes

It has also been observed that friendship also breeds well and thrives where there is common interest, tastes and experiences. Based on the interview responses, people tend to become friends and have their friendships thrive when they encounter common challenges, experiences and have common tastes. For instance, when one interviewee was asked about how she found it when she first came to the university in terms of friendship, the respondent noted that ones she joined university, they shared the same activities and ended up becoming friends:

we all end up like for the first two weeks we all went out together to all of the Fresher’s things, every, the whole floor, like twelve of us, we all just went out together, so we all became quite close in that week, the first two weeks (Extract 4, Shazia)

Furthermore, sharing the same class and engaging in the same academic activities would not only increase chances of developing friends but also create greater friendship. For instance, when asked about how she began her friendship and how that friendship thrived, one respondent mentioned the role of common experiences in enhancing friendships:

I just remember sitting next to her and we just started talking and she was a mum and I was a mum and we just had little things like that, but then the more, you know every, every time we came in we swapped phone numbers and we’ve just got more friendlier (Extract 5, Deborah)

Even when two individuals come from different cultural backgrounds and would ordinarily not make good friends, a set of common experiences can create an opportunity for greater friendship. For instance, when aske dhow they became friends with a colleague despite not coming from the same cultural background, the interviewee noted that because everything she had gone through had also been experienced by her friend, their friendship grew as a result of mutual learning from each other:

Yeah, yeah, we’ve been through like everything together as well, like everything that happened to her for the first time, cause I’m a bit older so I’d like, like things with school as well (Extract 6, Deborah)


The responses also revealed that trust is a foundational building block of friendship. For individuals to be friends, they must trust each other. Once that trust is available, their friendship finds an opportunity to thrive and strengthen. More importantly, as revealed in the interviews, trust helps friends to make plans and feel safe and be more dependable, have respect for each other, and honour each other. For example, when asked to weigh on the idea that sometimes she might feel the need to have her own space, the respondent agreed but note that in other times, she feels like she wants to share her problems with her friends without being judged, and because she trusts her friends cannot judge her, she is comfortable sharing with them:

I’m scared they’ll judge me I think [INT: OK], but then I think like with my good friends I know that they won’t judge me so I’m happier talking (Extract 7, Shazia)

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Once there is mutual trust, friends begin to feel naturally happy together, even if that happiness may not come immediately. For instance, when asked about the process sof developing trust between them and their friends, one respondent noted that they would gradually develop trust through various signs that indicate that the other person is trustworthy. This would especially be through various situations that demonstrates the other person’s trustworthiness; and then slowly, they would begin to trust and be happy about each other.

I think that like there’ll be little bits that you’d tell that, like little signs that tell you that you can trust that person and that they’re not gonna judge you and ehm yeah I think like that bit by bit (Extract 8, Deboarh)

From common experiences to proximity, this analysis reveals that friendship is a multifaceted phenomenon that thrives under various circumstances for various reasons. Moreover, it was eminent all over the interviews that emotions such as happiness play a significant role in friendship creation and development.


Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11(4), 589-597.

Nowell, L. S., Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, N. J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the trustworthiness criteria. International journal of qualitative methods, 16(1), 1609406917733847.

Terry, G., Hayfield, N., Clarke, V., & Braun, V. (2017). Thematic analysis. The Sage handbook of qualitative research in psychology, 17-37.

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