Before analysis starts we draw up a list of categories of topics for analysis. These are initially identified from the literature and from the first few interviews. As the analysis progresses, additional categories are added. A computer assisted software package is used to help organise the interview transcripts for analysis which begins soon after the first interview (Tesch 1990).

During the analysis we group and link all of the sections of the interviews that cover a similar topic (for example ‘diagnosis’ or ‘talking to the doctor’). When this ‘coding’ is finished we can then look at what everyone has said about a particular topic, gathered together in one or more reports. These reports are the basis for the analysis and for writing the topic summaries (the individual pages within a health condition on the site).

The researcher and their buddy look at the reports and together they make sure that important points, and every respondent’s perspective, have been included in the topic summaries (see below). The role of the buddy is to be a ‘critical friend’ who takes an independent view of the data collected. At this stage there may be some discussion about meaning and interpretation of points made during the interviews. The analysis process is described in more detail in Ziebland and McPherson (2006, see references for details).