A Three-Step Process For Analyzing Qualitative Data

A question I often get when discussing online qualitative exercises is: what does the output look like? It’s true that qualitative data doesn’t come as easily packaged in a nice graph or chart as quantitative data does. In fact, how you analyze and captivatingly display qualitative results is a process that requires not only an analytical and logical mind but also a creative touch.

In particular, if you lack experience with qualitative data, it’s hard to find the story behind all the quotes and opinions you've received. I’ve put together a simple three-step process that you can use to begin synthesizing this information and creating your output.

  • Step 1: Bring order to the chaos. It’s important to know what the majority of your participants are saying. Start by creating a list of key themes as you read through the data, then tally each response that falls under that theme. You are not aiming to report numbers or percentages in the results, but this is the only way to begin to make sense of the wealth of information that you have at your fingertips.
  • Step 2: Stay focused and logical.You can’t create a sequential story if you let off-topic comments derail you. It's easy to focus on the negative comments — even if they don't reflect what the majority of participants are saying. Mark interesting comments or points, for example, by color-coding them, and come back to them after you have categorized the responses and answered the questions that underpin your main objective. Creating “callouts” in your report is a great way to highlight elements that aren't key parts of the story but that are interesting enough to share.
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