Framework Matrices

A framework matrix is a way of summarizing and analyzing qualitative data in a table of rows and columns.

It allows for both cross-case as well as sorting data by theme. Typically, individual cases are sorted by row, while themes to which the data have been coded occupy the columns of the matrix. In each intersecting cell, the source information is summarized that relates to the intersecting case and theme.

A blog post written by a NatCen researcher for a QSR International blog series on the framework matrix approach describes the core features of the approach:

"Framework differs from traditional qualitative approaches to analysis as it does not rely on coding and indexing alone. The Framework method encourages you to organise and manage your research through the process of summarisation, resulting in a robust, flexible and unique matrix output which allows you to analyse your data both by case and theme. It also assists with managing and interpreting data. It facilitates the systematic and comprehensive analysis of all qualitative data sets, from the straightforward through to the more complex.

In summary then, Framework is a matrix-based approach to QDA, which has three elements at its core:

  • It is a case and theme-based approach to QDA which is built on the visual display of data in a matrix which is built on a hierarchy of themes and sub-themes.
  • Data summarization and synthesis that reduces the volume of data the analyst has to deal with yet maintains a direct link to the primary data and is fully grounded in the context, language and meanings captured in the primary data
  • A systematic process for creating and populating the matrices meaning the method can be used confidently by individuals or teams who want to collaborate" (Kandyw 2011).


Matrix showing several individuals' responses to questions grouped by themes in columns

Example of a framework matrix (image taken from NVivo 10 Help, n.d.).

The example of a framework matrix created in the program NVivo (above) shows its application in summarizing and showing links between cases and themes. The rows are organized by case (1), with the row headers giving the case name, and brief attributes of the case (e.g. age). The columns contain themes (2). The associated view (3) is a node containing references to coded source materials that are linked to the summaries in the matrix framework. It is possible to choose what content is displayed in the associate view.

Advice for using this method

  • Before creating a framework matrix, you must first code your data to cases and themes
    • Make sure that the coding system you have used will support your analysis
    • Themes should be valid and grounded in the data
  • If using a program such as NVivo to create your matrix, you will need to import your data, set case attributes, and create a thematic node hierarchy. See the NVivo 10 help page for more 
  • Use the cells in the matrix to summarize your source materials that relate to the intersecting case (row) and theme (column)
    • You can go through case-by-case (working through an interview transcript or case notes) and go through rows individually as you add information into each theme's cell, or it might be easier to look at the source data coded to each theme and fill out each case cell in that way
    • Keep your summaries consistent
      • If working in a team, use a shared list of abbreviations and formatting specifications
      • Keep the summaries of a similar length, to make the completed matrix easier to view
  • After summarizing your materials, review the matrix
    • Are there any empty cells? Are these deliberate (i.e. the theme was not relevant to the case) or was it simply missed? It is a good idea to leave a note explaining why the cell is blank.


Kandyw (2011, 01 October). 'Using Framework in NVivo'. Retrieved from

NVivo 10 for Windows Help (n.d.) 'About framework matrices'. Retrieved from

'Framework Matrices' is referenced in: