How to Do a Thematic Analysis of User Interviews

How to Do a Thematic Analysis of User Interviews

You will have been within the discipline speaking to customers and also you now end up with a large quantity of audio, notes, video, footage, and attention-grabbing impressions. All that data may be overwhelming, and it’s troublesome to know the place to begin to make sense of all the info. Right here, we’ll educate you the way to go from data chaos to patterns and themes that characterize probably the most attention-grabbing elements of your knowledge and which you need to use as the muse for personas, consumer situations and design choices.

When you’ve got carried out consumer interviews, the subsequent step is to analyze what folks have informed you. Relying on the complexity of your challenge, this may be a easy or a advanced job, however it doesn’t matter what your challenge is, it’s vital that you just comply with sure pointers for a way to analyze your interviews. Though you may really feel like you’ve got a fairly good thought what folks have informed you and you’re keen to get began implementing your insights, doing a correct evaluation is vital for the validity of your outcomes. There may be a lot happening in an interview state of affairs, and it’s straightforward to overlook data that doesn’t match together with your preconceived assumptions of what folks had been going to say and do throughout your interviews. A correct evaluation will make sure that you undergo your knowledge in a systematic and thorough method. A correct evaluation additionally makes it straightforward for different folks to perceive precisely the way you reached your varied conclusions about your members and can make your outcomes rather more reliable. Analyzing your outcomes takes time, particularly in case your objective is broad and explorative. But when your time is proscribed, it’s at all times higher to slender the scope of your research than to skip steps within the evaluation part and soar straight to performing in your outcomes.

Copyright holder: Freeway Company. Copyright phrases and license: CC BY 2.0

If you end up with extra potential roads (matters) to comply with than you’ve got time or sources for, select one as a substitute of attempting to cowl every thing.

It’s vital that you just correctly analyze your interviews, however there may be no single proper means to carry out qualitative knowledge evaluation, and the strategy you select primarily is determined by the precise objective of your research. Right here, we’ll deal with one of the commonest strategies for analyzing semi-structured interviews: thematic evaluation. A thematic evaluation strives to establish patterns of themes within the interview knowledge. One of the benefits of thematic evaluation is that it’s a versatile technique which you need to use each for explorative research, the place you don’t have a clear thought of what patterns you’re looking for, in addition to for extra deductive research, the place you already know precisely what you have an interest in. An instance of an explorative research may very well be conducting interviews at a technical office so as to get hold of an understanding of the technicians’ on a regular basis work lives, what motivates them, and many others. A extra deductive research may very well be conducting interviews at a technical office so as to learn how technicians use a particular expertise so as to deal with safety-critical conditions.

Irrespective of which kind of research you’re doing and for what objective, an important factor in your evaluation is that you just respect the info and check out to characterize your interview as truthfully as attainable. While you share your outcomes with others, you ought to be clear about every thing in your analysis course of, from the way you recruited members to the way you carried out the evaluation. This may make it simpler for folks to belief within the validity of your outcomes. Individuals who don’t agree together with your conclusion could be essential of your analysis outcomes, but when you already know that you’ve got executed every thing attainable to characterize your members and your analysis course of truthfully, you should not have any downside defending your outcomes.

Steps in a Thematic Analysis

“Analysis includes a fixed transferring again and ahead between all the knowledge set, the coded extracts of knowledge that you’re analysing, and the evaluation of the info that you’re producing.”

—Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke, Authors and qualitative researchers in psychology

Thematic evaluation describes an iterative course of as to how to go from messy knowledge to a map of an important themes within the knowledge. The method accommodates six steps:

  1. Familiarize your self together with your knowledge.
  2. Assign preliminary codes to your knowledge so as to describe the content material.
  3. Seek for patterns or themes in your codes throughout the completely different interviews.
  4. Evaluate themes.
  5. Outline and identify themes.
  6. Produce your report.

On this video, professor of Human Pc Interplay at College School London and skilled in qualitative consumer research Ann Blandford supplies an summary of what an evaluation course of can appear like.

Thematic evaluation is utilized in many various analysis fields, however the steps are at all times the identical, and right here we construct our detailed description of the steps on a well-known article, by qualitative researchers in psychology Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke, known as “Utilizing thematic evaluation in psychology”. We describe the method as you may do it in a enterprise setting; so, if you’re conducting interviews for educational functions, it is best to lookup the unique article.


Throughout the first part, you begin to familiarize your self together with your knowledge. When you’ve got audio recordings, it’s usually obligatory to carry out some type of transcription, which can permit you to work together with your knowledge. On this part, you undergo all of your knowledge out of your total interview and begin taking notes, and that is while you begin marking preliminary concepts for codes that may describe your content material. This part is all about getting to know your knowledge.

How a lot you want to transcribe will range relying in your challenge. If you’re performing a broad and exploratory evaluation, chances are you’ll want to transcribe every thing that was mentioned and executed in the course of the interview, as you don’t know upfront what you’re in search of. If you’re looking for particular matters, you’ll in all probability solely want to transcribe these components of the interview that pertain to that matter. In some circumstances—e.g., when the interview is a minor half of a bigger consumer check or commentary challenge—writing a detailed abstract or summarizing particular themes may be ample. When you think about how a lot to transcribe, take Braun and Clarke’s recommendation: “What’s vital is that the transcript retains the knowledge you want, from the verbal account, and in a means which is ‘true’ to its unique nature”.

Whether or not you transcribe it your self or pay somebody to do it for you’ll rely in your finances and your time. Some researchers want to do it themselves as a result of they’ll begin making sense of the info as they transcribe; others really feel as if they’ll use their time extra effectively by studying the completed transcripts that another person has made.

2.Producing Preliminary Codes

In part 2, you assign codes to your knowledge. A code is a temporary description of what’s being mentioned within the interview; so, every time you word one thing attention-grabbing in your knowledge, you write down a code. A code is a description, not an interpretation. It’s a means to begin organizing your knowledge into significant teams. For instance, let’s strive to code a snippet from an interview about video streaming:

I: So how did you discover one thing?

Peter: Nicely, first she [his wife] checked out HBO and instructed that we watch Silicon Valley, however Im not likely into comedy exhibits. So, then she went to Netflix and instructed completely different motion pictures, however there wasnt actually something that I felt like however then I remembered that we had been watching Higher name Saul earlier than the summer time vacation, and I couldnt actually bear in mind if we had watched all of the episodes, so we regarded it up and it turned out that we had stopped within the center of the season; so, thats what we watched…”

You can provide this part a number of codes (and it’s completely superb to give one part a number of codes) relying in your pursuits. If you’re concerned about completely different streaming companies, you might use the codes “Netflix” and “HBO”. In case your pursuits are broader or if you’re—e.g.—concerned about how folks collaborate, you might use the code “coming to an settlement”. So, which codes you utilize rely upon what’s being mentioned and on the aim of your analysis. Your coding additionally is determined by whether or not you’re performing an exploratory evaluation, the place the themes rely upon the info, or a deductive evaluation, the place you seek for particular themes.

Writer/Copyright holder: Ditte Hvas Mortensen and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

How you code relies upon each on the info and the aim of your analysis.

There is no such thing as a clear cut-off between part 1 and part 2, and preliminary coding usually takes place in the course of the familiarization part. There may be particular software program for coding, however you too can code by taking notes on a printed transcript or through the use of a desk in a Phrase doc. An important factor is you can match the code to the part of the interview that it refers to. Upon getting coded all of your knowledge, the subsequent step is to collate all of the sections that match into every code—e.g., collate all sections in your interviews with the code “Netflix”. If you’re utilizing pen and paper, you should have to copy sections which have a number of codes so as to place them in multiple code class. If you’re coding digitally, you possibly can simply use copy-paste. Braun and Clarke suggest that you just code for as many probably attention-grabbing themes as attainable and that you just maintain a little of the info surrounding your coded textual content while you do the coding; that means, you received’t lose an excessive amount of of the context.

3.Trying to find themes

Writer/Copyright holder: Ditte Hvas Mortensen and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

In part 3, you begin to type your codes into themes.

Whereas codes establish attention-grabbing data in your knowledge, themes are broader and contain energetic interpretation of the codes and the info. You begin by your record of codes and their related extracts after which strive to collate the codes into broader themes that say one thing attention-grabbing about your knowledge. For instance, you might mix the codes “Netflix” and “HBO” into a single theme known as “Streaming companies”. Trying to find themes is an iterative course of the place you progress codes forwards and backwards to strive forming completely different themes. Drawing a map of your codes and themes or having codes on sticky notes you can transfer round will help you visualize the connection between completely different codes and themes in addition to the extent of the themes. Some themes could be subthemes to others. On this course of, not all codes will match along with different codes. Some codes can turn out to be themes themselves if they’re attention-grabbing, whereas different codes might sound redundant, and you’ll place them in a momentary blended theme. At this level, you shouldn’t throw away codes that don’t appear to match anyplace, as they could be of curiosity later.

4.Reviewing Themes

Throughout part 4, you evaluation and refine the themes that you just recognized throughout part 3. You learn by way of all of the extracts associated to the codes so as to discover in the event that they assist the theme, if there are contradictions and to see if themes overlap. Within the phrases of Braun and Clarke, “Information inside themes ought to cohere collectively meaningfully, whereas there ought to be clear and identifiable distinctions between themes.” If there are lots of contradictions inside a theme or it turns into too broad, it is best to contemplate splitting the theme into separate themes or transferring some of the codes/extracts into an current theme the place they match higher.

Writer/Copyright holder: Ditte Hvas Mortensen and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Some knowledge extracts may match into a number of themes. Right here, some of the extracts might additionally match into a search theme. If you happen to’re utilizing pen and paper, you should make copies of the extracts that match into a number of themes. On this case, you may also determine that the code known as “utilizing search” doesn’t actually match the theme, or that you just want to create a subtheme known as search to forestall your theme from changing into incoherent.

You retain doing this till you are feeling that you’ve got a set of themes which might be coherent and distinctive; then you definately undergo the identical course of once more in relation to your total knowledge set. You learn by way of all of your knowledge once more and contemplate in case your themes adequately characterize the attention-grabbing themes in your interview and if there may be uncoded knowledge that ought to be coded as a result of it suits into your theme. On this course of, you may also uncover new themes that you’ve got missed. Part Four is an iterative course of, the place you trip between themes, codes, and extracts till you are feeling that you’ve got coded all of the related knowledge and you’ve got the suitable quantity of coherent themes to characterize your knowledge precisely. On this iterative course of, you may really feel as if you possibly can maintain perfecting your themes endlessly, so cease when you possibly can now not add something of significance to the evaluation.

5.Defining and naming themes

Throughout part 5, you identify and describe every of the themes you recognized within the earlier steps. Theme names ought to be descriptive and (if attainable) participating. In your description of the theme, you don’t simply describe what the theme is about, however you additionally describe what’s attention-grabbing in regards to the theme and why it’s attention-grabbing. In Braun and Clarke’s phrases, you “outline the essence that every theme is about”. As you describe the theme, you establish which story the theme tells and the way this story relates to different themes in addition to to your general analysis query. At this level within the evaluation, it is best to end up ready to inform a coherent story in regards to the theme, maybe with some subthemes. It ought to be attainable for you to outline what your theme is clearly. Furthermore, for those who discover that the theme is simply too numerous or advanced for you to inform a coherent story, you may want to return to part Four and rework your themes.

6.Producing the report

What the ultimate report appears to be like like is determined by your challenge; you may want your ultimate supply to be personas or consumer situations, however there are some commonalities it is best to at all times embrace. While you write up your outcomes, there ought to at all times be sufficient details about your challenge and course of for the reader to consider the standard of your analysis. On condition that, it is best to write up a clear account of what you’ve got executed – each while you carried out the analysis and in your evaluation. You have already got a description of your themes, and you need to use this as a foundation in your ultimate report. While you current your themes, use quotes of what the members mentioned to display your findings. Video, audio and picture examples are much more convincing, however NEVER use this with out the participant’s consent. Bear in mind; you’ve got been speaking to these members. To you, the members are actual people, every of whom has a set of views and a host of rights you should respect. It’s your job to make the members really feel actual to the folks you report your findings to.

For UX initiatives, splitting your report up into two components could be a good thought. Half one accommodates a abstract of your findings in an interesting means – this may very well be in a presentation, by way of personas or consumer situations. Half two accommodates the background data about how you probably did your analysis and your full evaluation. That means, people who find themselves solely concerned about your conclusions can stick to these whereas individuals who have questions on your analysis can go to the detailed account of what your work entails. This may make sure the validity of your analysis and provide you with a good reference for the longer term when you’ve got forgotten all of the nitty-gritty particulars of your analysis challenge.

You may obtain our overview of the six steps in thematic evaluation right here:

Get your free template for “Steps in a Thematic Analysis”

Steps in a Thematic AnalysisSteps in a Thematic Analysis


Thematic evaluation describes a considerably easy course of that permits you to get began analyzing interview knowledge, however clearly there may be a lot of studying by doing concerned in finishing up the evaluation, so it pays to remember of widespread pitfalls when doing a thematic evaluation. Typically an vital factor to guarantee is that your evaluation delivers insights into the areas that you’ve got promised your stakeholders to ship insights into. If you happen to discover attention-grabbing data that’s off matter, contemplate diving into these matters in a follow-up challenge.

Right here, Ann Blandford describes some of the pitfalls she usually encounters when her college students are studying to analyze interview knowledge.

The Take Away

When it’s time to analyze your interview knowledge, utilizing a structured evaluation technique will show you how to make sense of your knowledge. A thematic evaluation is one thing you need to use each for deductive and extra exploratory interviews. The steps concerned are as follows:

  1. Familiarize your self together with your knowledge.
  2. Assign preliminary codes to your knowledge to describe the content material.
  3. Seek for patterns or themes in your codes throughout the completely different interviews.
  4. Evaluate themes.
  5. Outline and identify themes.
  6. Produce your report.

Right here, we have now launched you to all of the steps directly… and that could be a bit overwhelming. However don’t fear! Simply take one step at a time. The evaluation course of will turn out to be clearer as you progress, thereby affording you a wider scope for making what comes out of your interviews rely all of the extra successfully.

References & The place to Be taught Extra

Hero Picture: Copyright holder: Nearsoft Inc. Copyright phrases and license: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Course: User Analysis – Strategies and Finest Practices:

Virginia Braun & Victoria Clarke, Utilizing thematic evaluation in psychology, in Qualitative Analysis in Psychology, Quantity 3(2), 2006

Ann Blandford, Dominic Furniss and Stephann Makri, Qualitative HCI Analysis: Going Behind the Scenes, Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2016

web design

Related Posts