Given qualitative analysis’ information-rich text, it can be extremely hard to break it down into its components for analysis.

The lack of structure means governments and public bodies often struggle to collate information from public surveys or consultations effectively and feedback to citizens.

Luckily with the advent of online consultations came the ability to change how we collect and analyse qualitative data, simplifying and organising its output with the help of third-party tools.

Organisations need to know what people are saying, identify common themes and actions, establish public opinion and close the feedback loop by showing their responses have been heard.

Step 1: Preparation

Qualitative analysis in particular asks respondents to take time to write out considered responses. For the most comprehensive results, you want to maximise your qualitative data collection. First, set parameters, conduct market research and establish which research methods will help you achieve this.

Define the goals and objectives you want to achieve from your consultation.

Establish the number of responses the consultation or survey will require from the public for the data collection to provide meaningful insights.

Plan out a mixture of qualitative and quantitative questions that compliment each other and help form the bigger picture.

For example, Picklescott Woodland Creation’s survey asks respondents to rank project objectives in order of importance (quantitative data), and then asked complimentary qualitative questions to provide more in depth information for data analysis.    

Choose a third-party tool that fits requirements. This will help with organising and delineating your data for your qualitative analysis.

Step 2: Gathering Public Feedback for Qualitative Analysis: Best Practices

group of people engaging on topic

Feedback is an essential component of qualitative data in government research. During public or statutory consultations, it is essential that governments and public bodies allow citizens to actively participate and provide feedback on suggested policies and changes in their community. With public feedback, government can shape new legislation, policies and agendas in a way that shows they listened meaningfully to public participation.

Good feedback management and collection ensures your qualitative data analysis method is inclusive and insightful, allowing government agencies to make evidence-based decisions that take all viewpoints into account.

Then, in sharing results with the public via We Asked, You Said, We Did, you are closing the feedback loop and showing the consideration you took to qualitative data analysis.

Step 3: Organising & Coding Data for Qualitative Analysis

By using a platform that’s scalable, public officials can collect and organise data from a wide variety of sources and access it in multiple ways.

On Citizen Space, for example, you can receive a PDF summary, docx summary, or detailed analysis that breaks every answer down. If you code responses into types or fields, then you can easily shuffle data into categories for examination.

By including additional functions before sending out reports or surveys for feedback, you can code data into its different factors. Filtering and grouping your qualitative data analysis helps identify key themes or recurring responses that can then be segmented by type for further examination.

With options to filter by participant, their response, your designated codes, keywords etc. data can be qualitatively analysed from multiple angles for a full, complete overview of public response.

Adding codes can make qualitative data quantitative for analysis purposes. Depending on your consultation, you can decide to identify the most important elements of feedback you’re interested in and code them accordingly. From there, Citizen Space will aggregate the applicable answers and they can be downloaded into a spreadsheet or chart/table for further data analysis.

Step 4: Analysing Filtered Qualitative Data

two women sat at desk looking at computer

Qualitative data analysis needs to provide actionable insights and establish how organisations can change plans and proposals to better align with public feedback. This holistic approach means public participation is meaningful and consultations provide a clear outcome that considers the needs of the public and stakeholders.

There are five effective qualitative methods you can use to analyse your data:

Content Analysis

A content analysis collates answers that contain instances of the same words, subjects or concepts. This can be achieved by exporting data by certain keywords or codes to identify the frequency of which they are used and what that could mean overall.

Thematic Analysis

Similarly to a content analysis, thematic analysis groups any recurring themes or trends in respondents’ answers. By exporting qualitative responses quantitatively, they can explore the relationship between different aspects of the consultation and how the public perceive they will be impacted.

By identifying these patterns and trends, they can anticipate future responses to public consultations on the topic and predict eventual outcomes.

Narrative Analysis

A narrative analysis process provides a deeper insight into public perception of policies or changes.

This allows for researchers to determine areas of strengths and weaknesses in political planning and create contingencies in future similar cases.

Grounded Theory Analysis

Grounded theory analysis is a qualitative data collection method that begins from scratch. If a consultation is going out with no real knowledge of how people will respond, grounded theory analysis lets you gather and organise information as you go, slowly identifying patterns and trends.

Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis is a harder to define qualitative research method. Rather than looking at what people are saying it analyses the intent behind it.

This analysis considers cultural and social context and applies it to the data drawn.

Step 5: Reporting back to the public

As we’ve already mentioned, a key step in the ladder of public participation is ensuring respondents feel heard. In order to do that, organisations and public bodies need to close the feedback loop by providing evidence that their opinions were listened to and taken into account.

That’s the exact reason we created Citizen Space’s “We Asked, You Said, We Did”. Using this option, you can share results with the public and keep the entire consultation process transparent and accountable.

When figuring out how to analyse qualitative data in government research, using Delib’s tools and qualitative research methods can ensure your responses are meaningful and provide valuable insight into changes made.