Qualitative content analysis according to mayring: instructions& example

The qualitative content analysis according to Mayring is a Instructions for analyzing qualitative data. The content analysis process can be broken down into a series of steps. One Step by step guide and a Example for illustration basics and techniques of qualitative content analysis are presented on this page.

Conducting a content analysis requires a great deal of theoretical knowledge and extensive preparation before one can proceed to the actual analysis. The instructions describe each step and explain the background briefly and concisely, so that a qualitative content analysis according to Mayring also for beginners possible.

Qualitative content analysis according to Mayring: Summary

Qualitative Content Analysis Mayring Guidance Example

Qualitative content analysis according to Mayring Instructions in 12 steps

The Procedure of the qualitative content analysis is occasionally broken down into 7 steps or 9 steps. The instructions here include 12 steps, where this includes the 7 steps or 9 steps described elsewhere. Individual aspects were broken down into additional smaller steps so that the guidance remains comprehensible.

Mayring guide – 12 steps

  1. Determination of the material
  2. Analysis of the situation of origin
  3. Formal characteristics of the material
  4. direction of the analysis: research question& Sub-questions
  5. Theoretical differentiation of the research question
  6. Formation of categories: sub-questions as a first rough structure
  7. Determination of the analysis technique(s), definition of the concrete process model
  8. Definition of the units of analysis: Coding unit, Context unit& Unit of analysis
  9. Evaluation: Summary, Explication& structuring by means of coding unit, context unit& Unit of analysis: paraphrasing, generalization& Reduction
  10. Re-examination and, if necessary. adaptation of the category system
  11. Interpretation of the results with regard to the sub-questions
  12. Checking the quality of the content analysis

Determination of the material, situation of origin& formal characteristics

During the Determination of the material it is determined which interviews the analysis should be based on. Typically, a selection is made according to the representativeness of the respondents and according to economic aspects. This selection is usually made before the expert interviews are conducted, so that, for the most part, every expert interview that is actually conducted is included in the content analysis.

The Analysis of the situation of origin includes questions about by whom and under which conditions the expert interviews were conducted.

Formal characteristics concern the form in which the material is. Usually MP3 files and a transcript belonging to each expert interview are available.

Direction of the analysis, theoretical differentiation of the research question

The Direction of the analysis Concerns the question about what one actually wants to learn about. Often, one breaks down a research question into several sub-questions, resulting in a total of 3 to 5 sub-questions that collectively capture one overarching question. The further steps in the procedure result from the direction of the analysis and the breakdown of the sub-questions.

The question, the sub-questions and the direction of the analysis are based on theoretical considerations and link to previous findings. The question must be clarified before the analysis and theoretically linked to the previous state of research.

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Example of category formation: Questions as the first rough structure

It is advantageous to proceed as follows in qualitative content analysis: The overriding question is broken down into 3 – 5 sub-questions. These sub-questions are used as categories in the further procedure. How to obtain a first rough structure.

Category formation Example

Overarching research question: How do sociologists think about their professional field?

Sub-question 1: How do sociologists view their current career field?

Sub-question 2: How will the field develop in the future?

Sub-question 3: Where do sociologists see difficulties?

Sub-question 4: Where do you see opportunities?

Summary, Explication and Structuring

The qualitative content analysis according to Mayring includes three basic forms: Summary, Explication, and Structuring.

Summary of the contents to answer the question. In the summary, the material (the expert interviews) is compiled and reduced in such a way that the essential content is depicted and a manageable summary of the content is available. If one has multiple sub-questions, this must be done for each one of them.

Explication of the contents. Explication is about bringing additional material to individual unclear parts of the text (i.e., to data that is already available) that expands understanding, i.e., explains the text passages.

Structuring the contents. Certain individual aspects are filtered out of the expert interviews or the material is assessed on the basis of certain criteria.

Coding unit vs. Context unit vs. Evaluation unit

Although the vast majority of publications on content analysis according to Mayring are of the Coding unit, the context unit and the evaluation unit it makes sense to reverse this order, because then a logical structure becomes apparent.

When defining the Evaluation unit one determines which texts are to be analyzed. Example: In the case of expert interviews, one considers interviews, so each expert interview corresponds to one evaluation unit.

When defining the Context unit determines what is the largest text component that can fall under a category (sub-question). As part of each expert interview, each expert has been asked several questions. For example, one could specify here that complete answers to individual questions should be the largest text block that can fall under a category. Example: Asking a sociologist: "How do you see future developments in your occupational field?" As answer I receive several sentences. In each one of these sentences there is information to answer my sub-question 2, accordingly I adopt the complete answer.Theoretically, the context unit could also be limited to a single sentence, but in the context of expert interviews, it is best to define complete answers as context units, because this only defines the maximum proportion. If several sentences are spoken, but an answer to the question can only be found in one of them, only this one sentence is taken over.

When determining the Coding unit is determined, which is the smallest material component, which can be evaluated and which can fall under a category. It is favorable to specify here that the coding unit corresponds to a single word. For the following reason (example)If you ask an expert about his view on the future development in the professional field, you may hear single words in addition to or instead of formulated sentences. For example, a sociologist could formulate several sentences in response to the question about the future of the professional field and then spontaneously mention terms ("…and the law on temporary scientific contracts"). In such a case the term Science Temporary Contract Act an important answer.

Example: Mayring Qualitative Content Analysis Procedure

Now the previous steps are combined and the qualitative content analysis is carried out. The summary, explication and structuring is now carried out by means of the coding units, context units and evaluation units. It is favorable to have a Table with 4 columns created.

Mayring table example:

  1. The first column contains the heading: Evaluation unit/ text module.
  2. In the second column Paraphrasing.
  3. In the third column Generalization.
  4. In the fourth column Reduction.

It is also a good idea to process each sub-question individually (i.e. to create a separate table for each), otherwise it quickly becomes confusing.

Evaluation unit: Identifying text modules

In the first step of the content analysis the interviews are worked through and text modules are identified that contain information (data) to answer the first sub-question. Each such text module is copied out of the interview and inserted into the first column of the table.

It is advantageous to store in the cell from which interview partner the statement originates and on which lines of the transcript the statement can be found.


The paraphrasing serves to bring the text modules (evaluation units) to a similar linguistic level. Why paraphrasing is important quickly becomes clear after introducing all relevant text modules. Different experts have different ways of expressing themselves and often expert interviews contain half-sentences and grammatically incorrect sentences. Paraphrasing is used to rephrase each evaluation unit so that the second column contains correct German sentences that are on a similar linguistic level.


Following the paraphrasing is the editing of the third column, which contains the headline Generalization carries. The contents are now generalized here, i.e. the essential statements are formulated in such a way that a higher level of abstraction is achieved.


In the last step the Reduction. The generalized statements are thus broken down to the essentials. It is advisable to store key points here instead of complete sentences.

Review of the category system

After having worked on the first sub-question, i.e. after having inserted all relevant text modules in the table and having carried out the paraphrasing, generalization and reduction, one should take another look at one’s categories (i.e. sub-questions). It is often the case that answers refer to more than one sub-question or that experts address aspects that seem important but which had not been considered before (when formulating the research question and the sub-questions).

In such a case, one could (and should) adjust the categories (sub-questions) once again (expand by another sub-question or combine sub-questions). This process is called the Checking the category system.

Interpretation of the results with regard to the research question

Now the last step of the qualitative content analysis according to Mayring takes place: The pulling together of the data. The best way to do this is to look only at the last column of the table, which contains the respective reduction. As you read these bullet points, a picture emerges that answers the sub-question.

It is best to write a short text (one third of a page, in case of extensive content analyses also considerably more) describing the reductions and answering the sub-question.

It is useful not only to list all reductions, but also to mention if certain things were mentioned particularly frequently (by many experts) o.a.

Qualitative Content Analysis Mayring Quality Criteria

The quality of a content analysis according to Mayring is determined by a number of points. First the Procedure comprehensible to be, d.h. one should document one’s steps in defining each coding unit, context unit, and unit of analysis. Likewise, the steps of paraphrasing, generalization and reduction should be documented (d.h. that the tables created belong in the appendix of a paper).

Another important characteristic of the quality of the content analysis is that the Results comparable with those of other studies are or to tie in with this (see above: theoretical differentiation). The check of this quality criterion is often called triangulation.

If the qualitative content analysis was conducted by more than one person, one should use a computational (statistical) reliability test execute. Calculated for this is usually Cronbach’s alpha, where a value of 0.7 is sufficient to prove interrater reliability.

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