Skip to content

Using ChatGPT to help Analyse Focus Group Discussions

On 16 April I am running an online course on using ChatGPT for Qualitative Research. You can check it out by clicking here.

The main point I will be making in the course is that the best way to use ChatGPT is to make use of AI to make you a better and more productive researcher. I do not generally recommend handing the job over to ChatGPT; I suggest using it to make you more productive.

In this post, I want to highlight one way that ChatGPT can help you be more efficient. In this example, I have taken a Focus Group Transcript from a published study and used ChatGPT to help speed up my analysis.

Preparing the Transcript.
The study I am using was created by Lee Ii Wei Deanson, Yip Pui Mun, & and Chen Huei Wen and published on Their paper includes an introduction, their focus group transcript, their analysis and some summary notes. The study was conducted in 2011 in Singapore with women aged 18 to 25 who regularly wore make-up and who could speak and understand English.

I uploaded the PDF file to ChatGPT 4 using the paperclip on the web interface. (Note: my security settings mean nothing is stored on the web, and ChatGPT does not use my material for training.)

ChatGPT's paper clip upload method

To get ready for the session, I started with this prompt:
“This file contains the transcript of a focus group discussion and some other material. Please ignore the other material and review the focus group discussion.”

ChatGPT responded by summarising the main points of the discussion.
The focus group discussion, as per the transcript provided, explores participants’ attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions regarding female cosmetic products, specifically focusing on light makeup usage and non-users of MAC products. The discussion was structured around several key themes:

  1. Beauty Perception:
    Participants were asked to express their views on beauty through drawing and discussion. The exercise revealed a strong emphasis on inner beauty, with traits like confidence, happiness, and a good personality being highlighted as components of beauty. The participants generally responded more positively to the image of a woman without makeup, associating her with positive attributes such as confidence and approachability.
  2. Cosmetic Product Perception:
    The discussion around cosmetics elicited varied responses, from seeing makeup as a form of ‘magic’ that drastically transforms appearances to concerns about the harmful chemicals in cosmetic products. The group had a mixed view of makeup, recognizing its power to enhance beauty but also acknowledging its potential downsides.
  3. Brands and Quality Perception:
    Participants categorized cosmetic brands into different groups based on perceived quality and price, with MAC being placed among high-quality, higher-priced brands. This part of the discussion highlighted participants’ considerations of quality over price for essential items like foundation but more price sensitivity for less essential items.
  4. Cosmetic Use and Application:
    Factors influencing the purchase of cosmetics included quality, price, and environmental friendliness. The discussion also covered the time taken to apply makeup and the reasons behind its use, such as enhancing appearance, showing respect, and boosting confidence.
  5. Closing Thoughts:
    In concluding, participants reflected on their overall perception of cosmetics and their personal value, reiterating themes of confidence enhancement, respect, and presentability.

This was a bit more information than I really wanted at this stage, so I changed tack and asked:
How many participants were in the discussion?”

ChatGPT replied with
The focus group discussion involved six participants, identified as (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), and (F), along with a moderator.

To get a sense of who was being researched, I asked:
Give me a brief description of the six participants?”

ChatGPT replied:
The six participants of the focus group discussion can be briefly described based on their self-introductions and interactions during the session:

  1. (A) mentioned that she usually wears light makeup to school and opts for heavier makeup for special occasions such as wedding dinners. This suggests she values appearance in social settings but prefers a more natural look for everyday activities.
  2. (B) indicated that she wears makeup most of the time but tends to keep it light. Her regular use of makeup suggests it’s an integral part of her daily routine, possibly for enhancing her natural features or boosting confidence.
  3. (C) applies makeup for specific events, like wedding dinners or clubbing, implying she sees makeup as more of an enhancement for special occasions rather than a daily necessity.
  4. (D) typically wears light makeup when going out, which she does most of the time, unless feeling lazy. This indicates a balanced approach to makeup, using it to feel more put-together when leaving home but not considering it an absolute must.
  5. (E) wears makeup almost every day but sticks to light makeup for regular outings. For significant events, she opts for heavier makeup. This routine suggests she values a well-groomed appearance in her daily life but reserves more elaborate makeup looks for special occasions.
  6. (F) uses makeup only when going out with friends, preferring light makeup due to her sensitive skin. Her limited and cautious use of makeup highlights a concern for skin health and comfort over cosmetic enhancement.

Each participant’s approach to makeup reflects personal preferences, lifestyle, and possibly individual concerns like skin sensitivity, suggesting a diverse group with varied attitudes towards cosmetics.

One of the things I like to do when analysing qualitative information is to get a sense of what people agree about and where they exhibit differences.

To speed up my analysis I started by asking:
Highlight the points of agreement between the six participants”.

ChatGPT replied:
The six participants in the focus group discussion reached consensus on several key points regarding their perceptions and use of cosmetics:

  1. Inner Beauty and Confidence: There was a shared belief among the participants that inner beauty, characterized by traits like confidence and happiness, is more significant than mere physical appearance. They associated confidence and a good personality with true beauty, suggesting that cosmetics should enhance rather than overshadow these inner qualities.
  2. Role of Makeup: The participants generally agreed that makeup serves as an enhancement to their natural features rather than a necessity. They viewed cosmetics as tools to boost confidence, make oneself more presentable, and respect social situations, indicating a pragmatic approach to makeup use.
  3. Importance of Quality: There was a common understanding that the quality of makeup, especially for essential products like foundation, is more important than price. This consensus reflects a preference for investing in high-quality products that directly affect the skin, with less emphasis on the cost for supplementary items like blushers or eyeliners.
  4. Makeup as a Respect and Presentability Tool: The participants concurred that wearing makeup in certain situations is a form of showing respect to others and being presentable. This shared viewpoint underscores the social aspect of makeup use, where looking well-groomed is equated with showing regard for the occasion and the people involved.
  5. Selective Makeup Application: All participants indicated selective use of makeup based on the context, such as opting for light makeup for daily activities and heavier makeup for special events. This highlights a common approach to makeup application that is tailored to the occasion, balancing between comfort and societal expectations.
  6. Concerns about Cosmetics: The discussion also revealed some shared concerns regarding cosmetics, particularly about the potential harmful effects of chemical ingredients on the skin. This shared caution suggests an awareness of the health implications of cosmetic use among the participants.

These points of agreement reflect a collective perspective within the group that values the augmentative role of cosmetics in enhancing natural beauty and confidence, while also acknowledging practical considerations such as quality, context, and health impacts.

Next, after reading this, I asked ChatGPT to:
Highlight points of disagreement between the six participants”.

ChatGPT replied:
The focus group discussion revealed a few areas where participants expressed differing views or preferences regarding cosmetics and their use:

  1. Perception of Makeup Necessity: While some participants viewed makeup as an essential tool for enhancing appearance and confidence, others saw it as less crucial, using it selectively or mainly for special occasions. For example, F expressed a preference for light makeup due to sensitive skin, suggesting she might prioritize skin health over cosmetic use, unlike others who wear makeup more regularly.
  2. Makeup Application Time: Participants varied in the amount of time they dedicated to applying makeup. Some, like D), claimed a quick routine of about 2 minutes for light makeup, while others, like E, mentioned taking up to half an hour for more elaborate makeup. This difference reflects varying priorities and approaches to makeup, with some participants favoring speed and simplicity and others willing to invest more time for detailed application.
  3. Use of Makeup in Daily Life: There were differing views on the role of makeup in daily life. Some participants, like A and E, indicated a routine use of light makeup almost daily, while F reserved makeup primarily for outings with friends, highlighting different perceptions of when and why makeup should be worn.
  4. Impact of Makeup on Confidence: While all participants acknowledged the confidence-boosting effect of makeup, the extent to which they relied on cosmetics for this boost seemed to vary. For instance, C might see makeup as a significant enhancer for special occasions, whereas F might view it as less integral to her confidence due to her minimal use and concerns about skin sensitivity.

When I analyse material, I use the points of agreement and the points of disagreement as a framing tool that helps establish the big picture. My next step when analysing qualitative material is to employ one or more methods to help expose the key elements. By method, I mean discourse analysis, content analysis, grounded theory, etc.

For this example, I decided to explore using narrative analysis first. I asked ChatGPT:
Conduct a narrative analysis of the discussion, assuming you are creating a report for a retailer wanting to promote new brands of make-up. What recommendations would you make to the retailers?

Note, I have highlighted a method and I have created a context for the analysis. In a real project this context would be more detailed and would link back to key research and business questions.

ChatGPT replied with:
Narrative Analysis and Recommendations for Retailers

Overview of Discussion Insights

The focus group discussion among six participants revealed nuanced perspectives on cosmetic use, preferences, and perceptions of beauty. While there were shared beliefs regarding the enhancement of natural beauty, confidence, and the selective necessity of makeup, individual preferences varied, especially concerning daily makeup use, application time, and perceptions of the necessity and impact of makeup on confidence.

Key Findings

  1. Inner Beauty and Confidence: Participants valued inner beauty and confidence over mere physical appearance, suggesting that makeup should enhance rather than overshadow these qualities.
  2. Selective Use of Makeup: There was a consensus on the selective use of makeup, tailored to the occasion, balancing between comfort and societal expectations.
  3. Quality Over Price: The importance of quality, especially for essential products like foundation, was emphasized over price, indicating a preference for investing in high-quality products that directly affect the skin.
  4. Social Aspect of Makeup: Makeup was viewed as a tool for presenting oneself respectfully and presentably in social situations.
  5. Varied Application Routines: Participants had varying routines for makeup application, from quick 2-minute applications to more elaborate half-hour sessions, reflecting diverse priorities and approaches.
  6. Health Concerns: There were shared concerns regarding the potential harmful effects of chemical ingredients in cosmetics.


Recommendations for Retailers

Based on the insights gathered from the focus group discussion, the following recommendations are made to retailers aiming to promote new brands of makeup:

  1. Promote Inner Beauty: Align marketing messages with the enhancement of natural beauty and confidence, emphasizing how products can complement rather than transform the wearer. Highlighting the product’s ability to enhance features subtly can resonate with consumers’ preference for authenticity.
  2. Focus on Quality and Skin Health: Given the emphasis on quality and concerns about harmful chemicals, retailers should prioritize stocking brands known for their high-quality ingredients and skin-friendly formulations. Promoting products with natural, non-toxic ingredients can appeal to health-conscious consumers.
  3. Tailor Marketing to Occasion-Based Use: Recognizing that consumers have different makeup routines for daily wear versus special occasions, retailers should segment their marketing efforts to address these distinct needs. Strategies can include showcasing a “daily essentials” range alongside a more “glamorous, event-ready” collection.
  4. Educational Content: Provide educational content on makeup application techniques, emphasizing quick and efficient routines for daily wear while also offering tips for more elaborate looks. This can cater to the varying application time preferences among consumers.
  5. Inclusive Marketing: Reflect the diversity of makeup users in marketing campaigns, showing a range of looks that cater to different preferences, skin types, and sensitivities. This inclusivity can make the brand more relatable and appealing to a broader audience.
  6. Highlight Social Responsibility: Given the value placed on respect and presentability, retailers could emphasize the social aspect of makeup use in their promotions. This could include highlighting how certain products are suited for professional settings, casual outings, or special events, suggesting makeup as a form of social etiquette.
  7. Leverage Customer Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage and showcase customer reviews and testimonials that highlight personal experiences with the products, focusing on aspects like ease of use, the natural feel, and the confidence boost provided. Authentic customer stories can be persuasive to potential buyers.

By adopting these recommendations, retailers can more effectively connect with potential customers, aligning their promotional strategies with the values, preferences, and concerns expressed by participants in the focus group discussion.

This is all a bit generic, but don’t forget this was a discussion being held in Singapore in 2011. Many of the insights from this research have come to pass in the intervening 13 years. If this were a real project, I would typically dive in a bit deeper to provide something sharper.

But, before doing a deeper analysis, I would need to check that the analysis makes sense. One way to check the analysis makes sense is to ask to see actual quotes from the transcript. I asked:
For each of the six findings, please select a quote from the transcript which highlights the findings

ChatGPT replied:
Below are quotes from the focus group discussion transcript that highlight each of the six key findings:

  1. Inner Beauty and Confidence:
    Participant E: “This is a picture of a woman being elated and happy. She is confident that’s what I think of beauty. So you have to be confident.”
  2. Selective Use of Makeup:
    Participant A: “Hi I am X here. So normally I put on light makeup in school when coming to school and heavy makeup for wedding dinner.”
  3. Quality Over Price:
    Moderator: “So quality and price which one will you all go for? Which is the most important factor?” Participant D: “Price I am price sensitive.” Participant A: “I will go for quality but what u said just now if the quality is acceptable the cheap price is ok. I go for it.”
  4. Social Aspect of Makeup:
    Participant A: “For me to put on makeup is to present their selves better presentable to everyone when meeting.”
  5. Varied Application Routines:
    Participant D: “2 minutes I only used liquid BB cream powder blushers and eyeliner that’s all.” Participant E: “For going out maybe need half an hour. I do things very slow.”
  6. Health Concerns:
    Participant F: “My word is ‘chemicals’; I personally think that cosmetic is very harmful for use there is a lot of news coming up saying that all the cosmetics containing a lot of harmful substance in it. So it will harm our skin and damage our organs and health.”

When I read the quotes, I spot a real problem with Quality Over Price. One of the quotes puts price over quality, and the second is equivocal about the relationship between price and quality.

From here onwards, the process becomes more iterative. I’d ask ChatGPT to show me all of the references to quality and price. Then, I’d tell ChatGPT how I want to summarize this relationship and tell it to replace its price-quality finding with my price-quality interpretation. I would keep reviewing things until I was happy, then ask it to re-do its recommendations.

If I am happy with the outcome of that process, I write my report, drawing on ChatGPT but writing it in my own words, my experience of other projects in this market and with my knowledge of the client and what they are looking for.

Isn’t it Better to do it Manually?
In this case, with just one focus group, six participants and only about 18 pages of transcript, I would do a better job manually, and it would not take me much longer. Perhaps 6 hours instead of 4 hours. However, if there were 8 focus groups, each with 8 participants, the time difference would get much larger. In terms of quality, I would be better at depth, but the AI could well be better at issues such as ‘What are the key differences between the 8 focus groups?’ or ‘Who were the lead voices in each group and what differentiates these voices?’, and ‘Were there any other findings beyond the ones I have listed?’

Ethical Considerations
Before finishing this post, I want to cover three ethical issues.

1) IP (Intellectual Property)
My ChatGPT 4 account is configured not to store material on the web and not to allow OpenAI to use my materials for training.

2) Do I bias the findings?
The simple answer is ‘Yes’. The more complete answer is ‘Yes, and this is a good thing’. If I had not used ChatGPT then 100% of the findings would have been from my subjectivity, guided by the methodologies I adopted and the transcript I was working with. When I use ChatGPT, it acts as an extra constraint on my subjectivity. Where I disagree with ChatGPT, I need to argue my case. (By argue my case I mean construct reasonable prompts that allow ChatGPT to produce findings that are consistent with the data and with my interpretation. Using ChatGPT to help you conduct qualitative analysis still means that it is your analysis. It is grounded in you, which inherently means it is biased.

3) Declaring the use of ChatGPT
I declare if I used an AI tool to help with the analysis. I also declare that the final product is my responsibility. If there are errors, they are my errors, not ChatGPT’s. I also mention it if I used ChatGPT to create synthetic quotes (I will write more about this in another post) or if I used AI to generate images.

Where do I currently draw the line? If I have used Google Maps to navigate to focus group locations or if I have used Grammarly to spot typos, then I do not mention it. For me, the line is based on what I think clients/readers want to know.

ChatGPT courseDo you want to find out more about using ChatGPT and Qual?
I am running an online course on this topic on April 16, you can check it out by clicking here.

Curious about how hot insights methods can benefit your business? Contact us at We’ll help you harness the latest market research techniques to stay ahead of the competition. For all Market Research projects please visit They have a great platform comparable to STG at a fractional cost. For ODK Collect projects please contact us at

Source link

6 Comment on this post

  1. What i dont understood is in reality how youre now not really a lot more smartlyfavored than you might be now Youre very intelligent You understand therefore significantly in terms of this topic produced me personally believe it from a lot of numerous angles Its like women and men are not interested except it is one thing to accomplish with Woman gaga Your own stuffs outstanding Always care for it up

  2. I simply could not go away your web site prior to suggesting that I really enjoyed the standard info a person supply on your guests Is going to be back incessantly to investigate crosscheck new posts

  3. Its like you read my mind You appear to know so much about this like you wrote the book in it or something I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit but instead of that this is excellent blog A fantastic read Ill certainly be back

  4. helloI like your writing very so much proportion we keep up a correspondence extra approximately your post on AOL I need an expert in this space to unravel my problem May be that is you Taking a look forward to see you

  5. Its like you read my mind You appear to know so much about this like you wrote the book in it or something I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit but other than that this is fantastic blog A great read Ill certainly be back

  6. Its like you read my mind You appear to know a lot about this like you wrote the book in it or something I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit but instead of that this is fantastic blog An excellent read I will certainly be back

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link