Interview Themes


  • To analyze data from interviews
  • To identify themes from interviews


  • Rubber bands, paper clips, or binder clips
  • Index cards

Prepare Before

Put coded interview results on the index cards.

Warm Up

Today we are looking at themes from your interviews to see if there are any trends.

Why did we want to interview these people?  What were we hoping to find out? What are some guesses people have about trends we might see?

Write down all ideas.


To identify themes, everyone should take out their interview questions, the coded index cards from those interview, and review the responses that people said.  Look at all the Answer #1 for everyone one you interviewed, then all the Answer #2, etc.  Put answers that are similar in stacks.

First sort your own cards into themes, and then get groups together to sort them all into similar themes.

Students may want to use rubber bands, paper clips or binder clips to keep similar answers together.  Once everyone is done sorting their cards, they should see which stacks have the most cards.  These are the major themes from the interviews.


What themes do you notice?  How does this fit with what you previously thought?  How does it go against what you previously thought?


In determining your next steps and your research results, it’s important to focus on the main themes of what most people said, instead of the things people said that support what you already think.

If you have themes emerging that are different from what you expected, you must include these in your research.


You are going to prepare a brief presentation on the themes you found.  Everyone should get into groups of 3-5 people, and each group should have at least two stacks of cards that represent major themes.  They should develop a 2-3 minute talk about these trends that includes answers to the following questions:

  • What is this trend?
  • How does this enhance what have already learned?
  • How does this change what we have already learned?
  • What new questions come to mind?
  • Interesting quotes from the interviews that support the theme

Give groups 5-7 minutes to prepare and have groups share their mini-presentations.

After everyone has gone, ask the following reflection questions:

  • What do you see emerging as the biggest cause of the problem identified?
  • Did people talk about the history of the issue in your community or their personal experiences with it?
  • What ideas did the interviewed people have as a solution to this problem?
  • What information did NOT get discussed in the interviews? Who might you still need to interview? What other information do you still need?
  • Who should you share these results with?

Use your answers to develop next steps for the group.   Is there another research method you need to use?  More interviews?  Moving to an action phase?

What is one next step we should take to help us reach our goal for this project?