Understanding learners’ perceptions of ChatGPT: A thematic analysis of peer interviews among undergraduates and postgraduates in China

Xiaoshu Xu, Yujie Su, Yunfeng Zhang, Yunyang Wu, Xinyu Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven language model engineered by OpenAI, has experienced a substantial upsurge in adoption within higher education due to its versatile applications and sophisticated capabilities. Although prevailing research on ChatGPT has predominantly concentrated on its technological aspects and pedagogical ramifications, a comprehensive understanding of students' perceptions and experiences regarding ChatGPT remains elusive. To address this gap, this study employed a peer interview methodology, conducting a thematic analysis of 106 first-year undergraduates and 81 first-year postgraduate students' perceptions from diverse disciplines at a comprehensive university in East China. The data analysis revealed that among the four factors examined—grade, age, gender, and major—grade emerged as the most influential determinant, followed by age and major. Postgraduate students demonstrated heightened awareness of the potential limitations of ChatGPT in addressing academic challenges and exhibited greater concern for security issues associated with its application. This research offers essential insights into students' perceptions and experiences with ChatGPT, emphasizing the importance of recognizing potential limitations and ethical concerns associated with ChatGPT usage. Additionally, the findings highlight ethical concerns, as students noted the importance of responsible data handling and academic integrity in ChatGPT usage, underscoring the need for ethical guidance in AI utilization. Moreover, further research is essential to optimize AI use in education, aiming to improve learning outcomes effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26239
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024


  • ChatGPT
  • Chatbot
  • Higher education
  • Learners' perceptions
  • Peer interview
  • thematic analysis


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