BetterEvaluation FAQ: How do you go about analyzing data that has been collected from respondents via a questionnaire?

A woman uses a Hollerith card punch machine

In this edition of the BE FAQ blog, we address a question that comes up quite often: How do you go about analysing data that has been collected from respondents via a questionnaire?

This is a good question – and a common one. Often people get to the end of having collected data from a survey and become somewhat stumped about what to do with it, often feeling overwhelmed by what can seem a daunting process if you are not used to it. So we’ve broken the key steps involved to hopefully make this process clearer – and easier.

An important part of analysing data from questionnaires is to go back to your broad Key Evaluation Questions (KEQs).  What do you want to know?  Do your analysis and report it in terms of these broad questions.  For example, you might want to know what participants’ experiences of a program have been like.  If you have questionnaire items where they have provided ratings (for example, 3 out of 5 for Relevance), show the frequencies of the data (how many rated it as 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) either in a table or in a graph.  Check for the overall patterns – for example, is there a large group with high ratings and a large group with low ratings?  If so, do some crosstabulations to see if you can understand the pattern more – for example, did women generally rate the program high but men rated it low?  Or did older people find it more useful than younger people?

For any qualitative data, see if you can group responses into themes and then report these themes with some illustrative examples. (See Thematic Coding)

Our Task Page - Analysis Data also has information about a number of techniques and resources for both textual and numeric analysis.  It also has a number of linked resource pages that discuss various tools for the analysis of data (e.g.NVivo or Excel resources). There's also a blog on using common software for analyzing data and some advice on combining qualitative and quantitative data.

We have a number of resources specific to questionnaires linked to our Questionnaire Method Page - have a look through these as a first step, paying particular attention to any resources that give examples of how questionnaires have been analysed in previous evaluations or guides that go into the analysis of questionnaires.