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 method(s): 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. 

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 charts or whiteboards: Using 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. 

Visualizing qualitative data in Notably

Notably helps researchers visualize their data on a flexible canvas, charts, and evidence based insights. As an all-in-one research platform, Notably enables researchers to collect, analyze and present qualitative data effectively.

Notably provides an intuitive interface for analyzing data from a variety of sources, including interviews, surveys, desk research, and more. 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. 

Research Frameworks in Analysis

The canvas in Analysis is a multi-dimensional workspace to play with your data spatially to find likeness and tension. Here, you may use a grounded theory approach to drag and drop notes into themes or patterns that emerge in your research. Utilizing the canvas tools such as shapes, lines, and images, allows researchers to build out frameworks such as journey maps, empathy maps, 2x2's, etc. to help synthesize their data.

Going one step further, you may begin to apply various lenses to this data driven canvas. For example, recoloring by sentiment shows where pain points may distributed across your customer journey. Or, recoloring by participant may reveal if one of your participants may be creating a bias towards a particular theme.

Recolor your canvas by Sentiment to visualize pain points across a user journey.

Exploring Qualitative Data through a Quantitative Lens

Once you have begun your analysis, you may visualize your qualitative data in a quantitative way through charts. You may choose between a pie chart and or a stacked bar chart to visualize your data. From here, you can segment your data to break down the ‘bar’ in your bar chart and slices in your pie chart one step further.

To segment your data, you can choose between ‘Tag group’, ‘Tag’, ‘Theme’, and ‘Participant'. Each group shows up as its own bar in the bar chart or slice in the pie chart. For example, try grouping data as ‘Participant’ to see the volume of notes assigned to each person. Or, group by ‘Tag group’ to see which of your tag groups have the most notes.

Depending on how you’ve grouped or segmented your charts will affect the options available to color your chart. Charts use colors that are a mix of sentiment, tag, theme, and default colors. Consider color as a way of assigning another layer of meaning to your data. For example, choose a red color for tags or themes that are areas of friction or pain points. Use blue for tags that represent opportunities.

Generate charts to visualize your qualitative data in a quantitative way

AI Powered Insights and Cover Images

One of the most powerful features in Analysis is the ability to generate insights with AI. Insights combine information, inspiration, and intuition to help bridge the gap between knowledge and wisdom.

Even before you have any tags or themes, you may generate an AI Insight from your entire data set. You'll be able to choose one of our AI Insight templates that are inspired by trusted design thinking frameworks to stimulate generative, and divergent thinking. With just the click of a button, you'll get an insight that captures the essence and story of your research.

You may experiment with a combination of tags, themes, and different templates or, create your own custom AI template. These insights are all evidence-based, and are centered on the needs of real people. You may package these insights up to present your research by embedding videos, quotes and using AI to generate unique cover image.

Package up your insights with AI Generated cover images for beautiful presentation.

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.

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