How to Conduct A Thematic Analysis

At the speed of today’s market, brands need answers, and they need them fast. Decisions need to be made based on insights revealed through data to maintain upward momentum. And that’s where thematic analysis comes in!

Brands are surrounded by data; however, roughly 80% of it is unstructured. As such, brands need tools capable of collecting data and uncovering the patterns that inform market intelligence. Here, we’ll cover how brands approach this data, with a focus on:

  • What is thematic analysis?
  • How to conduct a thematic analysis
  • And how thematic analysis is beneficial to brands

Thematic analysis uncovers the secrets held within datasets and it is a critical aspect of today’s market research. Here are a few relevant statistics we found that show the value of smart data analytics:

Data analytics is growing in importance for brands as they discover how much consumer and market intelligence is waiting to be discovered. Thematic analysis is the catalyst for that growth. Let’s see why!

PR Week Survey Report 2021: Media Intelligence - Read the eBook

What is Thematic Analysis?

Thematic analysis is a qualitative data analysis method that looks for patterns or themes within a dataset. We know that sounds boring, but it’s anything but. Humans crave patterns and look for them everywhere. Our dependence on patterns is why we cringe at a misspelling or laugh at a mispronunciation. We’re acclimated to the structures in our language after a lifetime of learning them. Unstructured data has stories to tell, and thematic analysis helps us make sense of it all.

Traditional research leans on thematic analysis to find the themes contained within surveys, focus groups, and interviews. And now, data analytics tools employing artificial intelligence capture vast amounts of data from media outlets, social media, review sites, forums, blogs, etc., and present the themes found in the conversations within minutes.

Robust filtering functionality and Boolean search indicators allow analysts to slice and dice any topic to find the top themes present within the dataset. Tools capable of data visualizations kick things up a notch, providing thematic clusters that make it easy to dive into areas of interest. For instance, with minimal setup, we can run a thematic analysis on ‘market research’ and be presented with topical sub-clusters in just a few clicks. And now we’re ready for a deep dive.


From a brand perspective, a thematic analysis can be performed on your brand name, industry, product, or competitor using social and traditional media datasets. Additionally, you can upload your internal datasets to discover themes within your chat logs, customer service records, review data, and call transcripts. Having a broad palette of datasets to analyze increases the market intelligence you bring to your decision-makers.

How to Conduct a Thematic Analysis

Generally, your data analytics tools will allow you to input a topic and then generate metrics, including trending themes, from the collected data. Where you go from there, including filtering mechanisms and analysis techniques used, depends largely on your use case. And often, as themes emerge, additional filters are used to isolate areas of interest for a granular look.

So, if you were curious of what the common themes behind your brand’s social sentiment, your tools would likely show summary metrics behind your brand conversation, such as mention counts, potential impressions, and net sentiment score right off the bat.

This would be a great start to get an overall perspective, but if you’re looking for popular themes, you’ll need to dig further. Your market intelligence tools should include functions for examining trending topics, wordclouds, and sentiment drivers, which will highlight the most common words, hashtags, and phrases found in your dataset.

At this point, your initial discovery will show you the trending themes within your dataset – but that’s probably not enough intel to do anything with. As “way leads on to way” to quote Robert Frost, every point of interest within your analysis will beg for further exploration. And that’s where you need access to a host of filtering options to clear irrelevant data and focus on the good stuff.


This is how brands performing in-house thematic analysis pinpoint narratives within massive datasets to answer their questions. Let’s talk a little about how brands can use thematic analysis in the real world.

How Thematic Analysis is Beneficial to Brands

Finding the thematic undercurrents in the datasets relevant to your brand is a vital first step in understanding precisely what’s happening around you. And thematic analysis is also fantastic for finding answers to very specific questions.

Being surrounded by digital data as we are, modern thematic analysis makes it easy to uncover top talking points and dig into top authors, publications, patent trends, geodata, domains, demographics, etc. In this way, thematic analysis cuts your topic into facets, allowing you to view trends from many different angles. Consumer intelligence has never been so approachable.

As data analysts, the more time we spend digging into a theme of interest, we’ll find ourselves adding more filters to fine-tune our analysis. As such, you’ll get to a point where everything is cleared away, leaving nothing but data relevant to our query. And it’s here that you’ll want the capability of saving your filters as a theme to perform on subsequent analyses – or a competitor.

An example would be filtering for boarding or baggage issues for airlines.

This granularity is what makes thematic analysis so worthwhile – because you can use it on a rolling basis. And this translates to speed. Once you’ve dialed into the perfect parameters to extract intel from a dataset, you can use them over and over and tweak them when necessary.

Using the airline example once more, let’s say you have identified several themes surrounding your brand that you would like to keep tabs on. Having done the work, you can now apply these thematic filters to your analysis whenever you want to monitor feedback on a continual basis.

To demonstrate the utility of thematic analysis for brands, we’ve used British Airways as our brand and applied four thematic filters, which are measuring for net sentiment. And to increase the value of our analysis, we’ve added a major competitor to measure against using the same themes.


We can see at a glance that we are doing fabulous in entertainment and seating but have a little catching up to do in the baggage department. However, we know right away that our focus should be on digging down into why our travel complaints are in the basement. And clicking back into the complaint theme will show us exactly what is going on.

This is the power thematic analysis provides to brands. Once you have your themes dialed in, you can apply them to any text-based dataset instantly. Monitoring them over time is the icing on the cake.

Speed is of the essence these days, and brands need answers fast. Reach out for a demo; we have thousands of pre-made themes covering any industry and use case. All of them are customizable, or you can make your own from scratch. We’ll show you how thematic analysis can take the guesswork out of doing business!

PR Week Survey Report 2021: Media Intelligence - Read the eBook

Premier social media analytics platform

Expand your social platform with LexisNexis news media

Power of social analytics for your entire team

Media analytics and market intelligence platform

Enrich your media analytics with social data

Media coverage for historical & real-time monitoring

Actionable data to drive your business decisions

AI, Image Analytics, Reporting Tools & more

Out-of-the-box integration with other data sources