How to Organize Qualitative Data

By Katherine Bradley

Surveys often include items that need to be investigated separately.
i BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Qualitative research produces a variety of data, from a variety of sources. Data sources may be personal interviews (written or recorded), surveys, questionnaires, official documents or observation notes. To complicate matters, more often than not, there are numerous respondents or participants and multiple researchers. To extricate and code data from multiple data sources can be difficult, but made much easier if the data is organized appropriately.

Step 1

Look for patterns or consistent themes in the data set.
i Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Review the entire data set so that themes or patterns begin to emerge. Note these themes or patterns and assign letters, numbers or symbols to designate categories. Like responses on a particular topic can be grouped together, thereby making item analysis easier.

Step 2

Create a code table so that codes can be consistent and readily accessible for multiple researchers. When conducting qualitative research, it is preferable to use multiple researchers so that a variety of perspectives are considered in data analysis.

Step 3

Separate the data into the groups -- themes, patterns or other categories. Once the data set has been coded the data can be grouped according to the code. This will also make data analysis and discussion easier. The discussion and analysis can then focus on independent themes that are noted in the data.

Step 4

Organize survey data by question, respondent or sub-topic. It is important to organize survey data so that it can be easily analyzed. One method of organization is to separate the data according to the question, respondent category or sub-topic. It may be desirable to group all responses for question one together, question twos together and so on. On the other hand, it may be more efficient to group data by topic. Grouping data may facilitate the emergence of developing themes or patterns in the data set.

Step 5

Code transcribed data so that the source is readily evident. Researchers often use data that is obtained by transcribing recorded or written interviews notes. Since data will be generated from a variety of interviews or verbal recordings and grouped, it is important that source of the data is labeled. For instance, consider the researcher conducting an item analysis on data that is drawn from 20 sets of interview notes. If the researcher is grouping all responses on a particular item, it is essential that each response be labeled to indicate the source.