Attributing focus groups participants

10.12.2017, 19:29

Hi everyone,

This post is about how to attach attributes to each participant of a focus group interview using MaxQDA.

Suppose you have conducted a number of focus groups. Each of them corresponds to a text document that has been nicely imported into your MaxQDA 2018 project through Import / Focus Groups Transcripts (so that now all your participants have been automatically identified).

Now, for each document, you want to relate participants names with other characteristics (such as age, gender etc.). The idea is, after coding, to explore some relationships between themes, topics or codes and the participants according to their characteristics. You may have all these individual-level characteristics organised in a spreadsheet (e.g. in Excel table), as this may have been collected through a questionnaire. In this Excel table each column shows exactly the same information as in the MaxQDA list of participants (in the column "Participant").

Question: Does MaxQDA allow to relate these sociodemographics to each focus group participant through a link between the list of participants and the Excel table. Or all these data necessarily have to be entered manually (i.e. open the participants list in MaxQDA and edit each cell manually)?

I am aware of the hints provided in the video tutorial "MAXQDA 12: Document Variables" ( and on the webpage However, I am afraid this is only helpful to relate attributes to the document (which is fine in the case of individual interviews, where the document relates 1:1 to a single interviewee). In the case of focus groups, one document relates to the conversation with N participants, so a relationship 1:N prevails).

Many thanks in advance!

Version: MAXQDA 2018
System: Windows 10
Posts: 12
Joined: 09.12.2017, 23:17

Re: Attributing focus groups participants

11.12.2017, 17:19


thank you for this very good question! The answer is a bit complex (took me a while to figure this out, too):

Unfortunatly, the variables for focus group discussions apply only for one focus group discussion at a time. (I will forward the suggestion to extend this feature right after this post.) And as you have stated correctly, the document variables also allow only one value per document. So to proceed with your analysis, you'll have to bring your analysis to the code-level, rather then the variable-level. Since MAXQDA is quite feature-rich for analyses on the code level, this won't really limit your capabilities, but it'll require a little workaround, which works as follows:

Create a new parent code "Participants" with subcodes for every particpants (e.g. Max, Lotte etc.). This is done to have codes with participants that apply for more then one focus group discussion.
To do this fast, activate all of your focus group discussions, and then activate one and the same participant in all the documents in which she or he appears. Then autocode the retrieved segments with new codes (the button is exactly in the middle in the "retrieved segments window") – one of which could be the particpant, while the others represent the demographic characteristic of this participant. So you'll end up with a new parent code "demographics" that looks something like this:

- Demographics
-- Age Groups
--- 10-19
--- 20-29
-- Gender

Now you can use "Code Configurations", "Code Frequencies", "Code Coverage" (to be found in the "Analysis"-tab), or all of the Visual Tools to explore connections between those demographic characteristics and all the other codes (themes, topics etc.) you have applied.

If you don't like seeing all those additional coding stripes with participants and demographics next to the document, give all of them the same color (and don't use this color for any other code). Then right-click on the sidebar in the "Document Browser" and select to not display this code color.

I think this should work! If not, or in case of any other questions, don't hesitate to ask again.

Kind regards,

MAXQDA Support Team
Andreas V.
Posts: 273
Joined: 13.04.2017, 16:23

Re: Attributing focus groups participants

08.05.2019, 09:49

Hy everyone.

I have a similar issue, but instead of more focus groups, I have one massive document of parliamentary debates for a period of time. I edited the document so the speakers are recognised as focus group participants and I would like to attribute their political or institutional affiliation to the speakers and see if there are specific themes more salient depending on these attributes or not.

Question is, do I have to code these attributes as mentioned in the post above, or there is a feature where these can be added to the participants as variables?

Many thanks in advance.
Posts: 2
Joined: 06.05.2019, 21:47

Re: Attributing focus groups participants

08.05.2019, 18:49

Hi Dorothy,
you should be able to solve your problem in a more simple way by creating those variables for the participant codes.
When you import as a focus group, each participant will have a code, and you can create code variables and edit them.
You may also be able to do this in bulk by using the Variables -> Import Code Variables function if you have a spreadsheet with all this data already

Posts: 122
Joined: 28.02.2014, 19:38
Location: Washington DC & Denver Colorado

Re: Attributing focus groups participants

08.05.2019, 19:15

Hi Dorothy,

You should use the variables for focus group participants, which are managed in the "Overview of Focus Group Participants" (see here

1. Right click on the document name in the "Document System" window to open its context menu.

2. In the section "Overviews", select the option "Focus Group Participants".
MAXQDA will open a table showing all speaker.

3. If you have an Excel file with the background information on the speaker you can import them by clicking on the icon with the green arrow labelled "Import Data". The Excel file needs to have two columns, one labelled with "Participant" and one labelled with "Focus group". These column must contain the same information as displayed in the "Overview of Focus Group Participants".
Tip: Export the Overview first, then delete everything except the needed columns and add your information in new columns.

Alternative 3. If you don't have an Excel spreadsheet with the variable information on the speaker, you can lick on the "List of variables" icon to add new variables before entering you data values back in the "Data Editor".

After adding variable information to your participants, you can use the following functions to compare groups build by their attributes:
"Visual Tools > Code Matrix Browser"
"Mixed Methods > Crosstabs"
Please see here for more information on this:

Best, Stefan
Dr Stefan Rädiker
Training, Coaching, Analysis for Research & Evaluation
Stefan Rädiker
Posts: 28
Joined: 12.02.2007, 10:18

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