There is no doubt that data visualization is an important part of the qualitative research process. Whether you're preparing a presentation or writing up a report, effective visualizations can help make your findings clear and understandable for your audience. 

In this blog post, we'll discuss some tips for creating effective visualizations of qualitative data. 

First, let's take a closer look at what exactly qualitative data is.

What is qualitative data?

Qualitative data is information gathered through observation, questionnaires, and interviews. It's often subjective, meaning that the researcher has to interpret it to draw meaningful conclusions from it. 

The difference between qualitative data and quantitative data

When researchers use the terms qualitative and quantitative, they're referring to two different types of data. Qualitative data is subjective and descriptive, while quantitative data is objective and numerical.

Qualitative data is often used in research involving psychology or sociology. This is usually where a researcher may be trying to identify patterns or concepts related to people's behavior or attitudes. It may also be used in research involving economics or finance, where the focus is on numerical values such as price points or profit margins. 

Before we delve into how best to present and visualize qualitative data, it's important that we highlight how to be gathering this data in the first place.

How best to gather qualitative data

In order to create an effective visualization of qualitative data, ensure that the right kind of information has been gathered. 

Here are six ways to gather the most accurate qualitative data.

1. Define your research question

What data is being set out to collect? A qualitative research question is a definite or clear statement about a condition to be improved, a project’s area of concern, a troubling question that exists, or a difficulty to be eliminated. It not only defines who the participants will be but guides the data collection methods needed to achieve the most detailed responses.

2. Determine the best data collection(s) method for the research question

The data collected should be appropriate to answer the research question. Some common qualitative data collection methods include interviews, focus groups, observations, or document analysis. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each option before deciding which one is best suited to answer the research question. 

3. Develop a cohesive interview guide

Creating an interview guide allows researchers to ask more specific questions and encourages thoughtful responses from participants. It’s important to design questions in such a way that they are centered around the topic of discussion and elicit meaningful insight into the issue at hand. Avoid leading or biased questions that could influence participants’ answers, and be aware of cultural nuances that may affect their answers.

4. Stay neutral – let participants share their stories

The goal is to obtain useful information, not to influence the participant’s answer. Allowing participants to express themselves freely will help to gather more honest and detailed responses. It’s important to maintain a neutral tone throughout interviews and avoid judgment or opinions while they are sharing their story. 

5. Work with at least one additional team member when conducting qualitative research

Participants should always feel comfortable while providing feedback on a topic, so it can be helpful to have an extra team member present during the interview process – particularly if this person is familiar with the topic being discussed. This will ensure that the atmosphere of the interview remains respectful and encourages participants to speak openly and honestly.

6. Analyze your findings

Once all of the data has been collected, it’s important to analyze it in order to draw meaningful conclusions. Use tools such as qualitative coding or content analysis to identify patterns or themes in the data, then compare them with prior research or other data sources. This will help to draw more accurate and useful insights from the results. 

By following these steps, you will be well-prepared to collect and analyze qualitative data for your research project. Next, let's focus on how best to present the qualitative data that you have gathered and analyzed.

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How to visually present qualitative data

When it comes to how to present qualitative data visually, the goal is to make research findings clear and easy to understand. To do this, use visuals that are both attractive and informative. 

Why present qualitative data visually?

Presenting qualitative data visually helps to bring the user’s attention to specific items and draw them into a more in-depth analysis. Visuals provide an efficient way to communicate complex information, making it easier for the audience to comprehend. 

Additionally, visuals can help engage an audience by making a presentation more interesting and interactive.

Here are some tips for creating effective visuals from qualitative data:

1. Choose the right type of visualization

Consider which type of visual would best convey the story that is being told through the research. For example, bar charts or line graphs might be appropriate for tracking changes over time, while pie charts or word clouds could help show patterns in categorical data. 

2. Include contextual information

In addition to showing the actual numbers, it's helpful to include any relevant contextual information in order to provide context for the audience. This can include details such as the sample size, any anomalies that occurred during data collection, or other environmental factors.

3. Make it easy to understand

Always keep visuals simple and avoid adding too much detail or complexity. This will help ensure that viewers can quickly grasp the main points without getting overwhelmed by all of the information. 

4. Use color strategically

Color can be used to draw attention to certain elements in your visual and make it easier for viewers to find the most important parts of it. Just be sure not to use too many different colors, as this could create confusion instead of clarity. 

5. Use flip charts or whiteboards

Using flip charts or whiteboards can help to explain the data in more detail and get viewers engaged in a discussion. This type of visual tool can also be used to create storyboards that illustrate the data over time, helping to bring your research to life. 

What about supportive photos, graphics, and drawings? 

There are a few options to choose from here, depending on what the goal is and the number of resources you have available.

  • Photos: Photos can be used to create an evocative visual that captures the gist of the data. However, it can be difficult to find the exact photo needed for a presentation, so this may not be the best option if it needs to be more precise.
  • Graphics: Graphics are excellent for communicating complex information and are generally easy to understand. This type of visual is also highly flexible, making it possible to customize the design to fit the data. However, it can be time-consuming to create graphics from scratch.
  • Drawings: Drawings are a great way to make complex data easier to digest and can help to tell a story with visuals. They tend to be more inviting than other types of visuals and can even be used to create interactive elements for presentations. However, drawings require more time and effort to create than other types of visuals. 

No matter which type of visual medium you choose, the most important thing is that the data is presented in a way that makes it easy to comprehend and understand. 

Make collecting, analyzing, and sharing qualitative data a breeze with Notably

As an all-in-one research platform, Notably enables researchers to collect, analyze and present qualitative data effectively.

If you are looking to make a serious impact with faster and better user research, then the Notably platform is your perfect partner. 

Notably provides an intuitive interface for creating surveys and collecting data from a variety of sources, including online interviews and focus groups. Its powerful analytics engine then helps you to quickly identify insights and trends in your data. Finally, the platform makes it easy to create beautiful visuals that will help to communicate research findings with confidence. 

You can sign up to run an end to end research project for free and receive tips on how to make the most out of your data. With a wide variety of research tools at your fingertips, Notably will completely change how you present your qualitative data.

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