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How to Analyze Survey Data

Analyzing survey data can be overwhelming, but with the right strategy, you can turn it into a goldmine of insights. How to analyze survey data?

Our guide provides a step-by-step method to analyze your survey results, and reveal patterns, trends, and findings that inform smart decisions and strategies. 

Ready? Let’s jump right into the topic.

a thinking person

Got survey data, now what? How to analyze survey data

There are twelve steps, each with an actionable checklist, so you won’t miss anything.

Step 1: Define your objectives

Begin by asking, “What do I need to learn from this survey?” 

Your objectives should be clear, specific, and directly linked to what you want to understand. 

For example, if your survey is about customer satisfaction, your objective might be to identify the top factors that influence customer happiness.

Your objectives will shape the way you interpret the data. That’s why it is important. Survey goals determine the questions you ask and how you interpret the responses. Without clear objectives, you might end up with a lot of data but no real insight.

Instead of a broad objective like “understand customer behavior,” aim for something more targeted like “determine the main reasons customers return products.” 

The specificity guides you in selecting the right questions and analyzing the data accurately.

Your actionable checklist:

  • Be clear about your survey’s primary purpose.
  • Identify the metrics or feedback you want to get.
  • Make your objectives align with broader organizational or project goals.
  • Think about how the survey findings might affect decision-making.
  • Try to be realistic about the insights you can get from the survey.

📚 Read also: Why are customer satisfaction surveys so important?

Step 2: Clean your data

Here, you transform raw data into clean, usable information. 🙂

Eliminate errors and irrelevant data points from your survey results. So if you find responses that are incomplete or don’t fit with your survey’s purpose, it’s best to remove them.

Cleaning your data is a must for its accuracy. Can you think of analyzing data cluttered with mistakes or irrelevant information? A nightmare, isn’t it? 

Clean data makes you see what is really going on. Then, it’s so much easier to spot valid patterns and identify trends.

On top of that, having clean data simplifies the entire analysis process. The trends you identify are based on accurate and reliable information.

Actionable checklist:

  • Remove incomplete or irrelevant responses
  • Fix any errors in data entry
  • Standardize response formats for consistency
  • Check for and handle outliers
  • Verify that all data points are correctly categorized

Step 3: Organize data structurally

It’s time to bring some clarity and structure to the collected data!

Arrange your data in a logical order. It might be sequencing responses according to the survey’s flow or grouping similar questions together.

Also, create a clear hierarchy in your data. Does your survey cover multiple topics? You can organize the responses under these topic headings. Navigating through the data is enjoyable, then.

Consider time-based organization if your survey captures data over different periods. Organizing data chronologically can make you spot changes over time, and provide actionable insights in your analysis.

Don’t forget about consistent formatting. It helps analyze data without confusion or errors, particularly when working with large datasets.

Actionable checklist:

  • Arrange data in the order of the survey’s questions.
  • Group responses by topic for easy access.
  • Organize data chronologically if relevant.
  • Maintain consistent formatting throughout the dataset.
  • Prepare a clean, organized dataset for further analysis steps.

Step 4: Quantitative and qualitative data segregation

You have two main types of data: quantitative and qualitative.

➡️ Quantitative data is numerical, like ratings or ages. 

➡️ Qualitative data includes written responses or opinions.

First, handle quantitative data. Organize this data into categories or groups. If your survey includes age groups, arrange the numerical data accordingly.

Then, focus on qualitative survey data from your survey respondents. Sort the responses into thematic groups. For instance, in a product feedback survey, you might categorize comments under ‘positive feedback,’ ‘negative feedback,’ and ‘suggestions.’

It’s a solid foundation for deeper analysis.

Actionable checklist:

  • Categorize numerical data into clear groups.
  • Sort text responses into themes.
  • Label each category for easy reference.
  • Double-check for any misplaced data.
  • Organize data in a way that aligns with your analysis goals.

Step 5: Analyze individual responses

The fifth step in your survey data analysis is to analyze open-ended responses and closed ones as well. Here is where the real gold lies in survey data. It’s a window into respondents’ thoughts and experiences.

Read every open-ended response carefully. Answers like these are rich with insights that simple yes/no answers can’t capture. You’re looking for patterns, repeated phrases, or unique points of view.

Next, summarize these insights. You might notice certain words or sentiments cropping up repeatedly. 

Actionable checklist:

  • Carefully read each open-ended response.
  • Look for common themes or unique insights.
  • Summarize key findings from these responses.
  • Organize insights into clear categories.
  • Use these insights to add depth to your overall survey analysis.

Step 6: Identify patterns and trends

When categorizing the responses and analyzing survey data, you might see trends and patterns among your survey participants. This step turns your data into a story. 

Look across all the responses and start noticing what stands out. Maybe a certain opinion is shared widely among a particular age group, or a specific issue keeps cropping up.

You’re combing through the details to find clues that piece together overarching ideas. These are your findings, the real gems hidden in the data.

It’s where numbers and words start forming clear messages. The trends are what turn your survey data from a collection of responses into valuable insights that can drive decisions and strategies.

Actionable checklist:

  • Review data for recurring themes.
  • Note patterns that emerge across different groups.
  • Analyze responses for common keywords or sentiments.
  • Correlate findings with demographic information.
  • Document these trends as key insights from your survey.
analyzing data

Source: Storyset

Step 7: Use cross-tabulation

It might be a powerful tool for understanding the relationships in your survey data. Cross-tabulation is comparing two or more variables to see how they interact with each other.

Select a few key demographic data points, like age, gender, or location. Then, pair them with different dependent variables from your survey responses. You might compare age groups with preferences for a particular service or product.

Cross-tabulation helps uncover tendencies that aren’t immediately obvious. It highlights how different demographic groups respond to specific aspects of your survey. 

Let’s say that you examine your data to see the finer details of how different segments of your audience think and feel.

Actionable checklist:

  • Choose key demographic data points for comparison.
  • Pair these with various survey responses.
  • Analyze the intersections to find unique patterns.
  • Use these insights to understand how different groups respond.
  • Apply this understanding to tailor strategies or products accordingly.

Step 8: Implement statistical analysis

Things can get a bit more technical when implementing statistical analysis. It makes you realize what’s statistically significant. You will see what findings are strong enough to rely on.

Once you find that many respondents prefer a particular product feature, statistical analysis helps you figure out if this preference is a real trend or just a coincidence.

Using statistical tools, you may test for statistical significance. You’ll see whether the results are likely to be true for a larger population, not just the people who took your survey.

Applying statistical analysis to survey data is a necessity. It gives weight to your findings and shows that the conclusions you draw are backed by solid evidence.

Actionable checklist:

  • Choose the right statistical methods for your data.
  • Test for statistical significance in your findings.
  • Interpret the results to see what’s genuinely significant.
  • Use these insights to make data-driven decisions.
  • Ensure your survey analysis is robust and reliable.

You can also use SurveyLab to get an intelligent analysis of your surveys. And it’s a super intuitive online software tool with plenty of survey templates.

Step 9: Create visual representations

It’s a great way to present survey data and results. When you’ve got a bunch of survey responses, turning them into visuals like pie charts can make the information way more digestible and interesting.

They can show your findings at a glance. A well-made pie chart may instantly convey how your survey respondents are split on a particular question. You take all numbers and responses and transform them into something that anyone can understand quickly.

Actionable checklist:

  • Choose the right type of chart for your data.
  • Make sure your visuals are easy to read and understand.
  • Use colors and labels to clarify your points.
  • Keep your design simple and avoid clutter.
  • Use these visuals to highlight the most important findings from your survey.

Step 10: Conduct a comparative analysis

It’s one of the survey data analysis methods where you take your current survey findings and compare them with past data, that’s a comparative analysis. It’s possible to spot changes, trends, or consistencies over time.

You look at the same data points across different periods or surveys. 

If your annual customer satisfaction survey shows a shift in opinions from last year, that’s something you want to look into. 

What changed? Why? 

These are the kinds of questions comparative analysis can help answer.

And it’s less likely to miss some tendencies when looking only at one set of survey results in isolation.

Actionable checklist:

  • Gather past survey data that are relevant to your current analysis.
  • Identify the same data points or survey questions for comparison.
  • Analyze any significant differences or similarities.
  • Draw insights from how responses have changed or remained consistent.
  • Use these insights to add a richer, more informed perspective to your survey report.
comparing data

Source: Storyset

Step 11: Draw meaningful conclusions

When you reach the point of drawing conclusions in your survey analysis, you literally put the final pieces of a puzzle together. 

You’ve looked at all the numbers, seen what’s statistically significant, and now it’s time to step back and ask: “What does all this really mean?”

It’s the stage of interpreting the data collected. Think about how the significant trends you’ve identified tie back to your original goals. What story is behind the trends? How do they shed light on the questions you started with?

Conclusions bring closure to your survey analysis and tie your findings back to the real world, giving context and meaning.

Actionable checklist:

  • Look at your data in its entirety, considering the bigger picture.
  • Focus on insights that are statistically significant.
  • Link these insights back to the purpose of your survey.
  • Craft conclusions that add depth and understanding to your findings.
  • Ensure these conclusions resonate beyond just the numbers, touching on the broader implications of your research.

Step 12: Report findings and take action

After all your hard work analyzing the data, it’s time to put it to use. Create a survey report.

Highlight the most important pieces of information there: significant trends, notable customer feedback, or any surprising discoveries. 

The goal here is to present these findings in a way that’s clear and compelling. 

Your survey report should not only inform but also inspire your audience to make decisions or changes based on what the survey uncovered.

Actionable checklist:

  • Summarize the key findings clearly and concisely.
  • Include relevant details from customer feedback.
  • Make sure your report is easy to read and understand.
  • Suggest actionable steps based on your analysis.
  • Use the insights to drive meaningful changes or decisions.

How to design the survey so it gives you data that’s easier to analyze

Don’t work harder, work smarter. These tips will help you in data analysis. Maybe here’s a piece of advice that you always overlook, and it may change the way you handle your data for good.

Keep questions clear and concise 

Concise questions prevent respondent fatigue. Long or complex questions can confuse or frustrate people, and it leads to rushed or careless responses, which in turn can muddy your survey analysis.

The goal of each question is to be as clear as possible about what you’re asking. Avoid jargon, double-barreled questions, and overly technical language that might confuse respondents. Each question should focus on one specific topic or idea to avoid ambiguity.

Use a logical flow 

Logical flow is essential for gathering data that’s easy to analyze. Start with broad, general questions and then gradually narrow down to specifics. Respondents may be more comfortable and willing to provide detailed answers further on.

Grouping similar topics together also helps. Once respondents deal with one subject at a time, their answers tend to be more focused and consistent.

You can quickly catch patterns without having to sift through a jumble of unrelated responses.

Limit open-ended questions

They can provide rich qualitative data, but they are harder to analyze in bulk. Use them sparingly and, where possible, change them into closed-ended questions. But be careful, open-ended ones may bring more insights, so think twice before replacing them.

With limited open-ended questions, the tracking data process will be less painful, and the data analysis won’t take long. 

Employ consistent rating scales 

Use uniform scales for rating questions (e.g., 1-5 or 1-10). Consistency in scales across questions makes comparative analysis more straightforward.

On top of that, employing consistent rating scales, like interval scales or ratio scales, makes it easier to track responses and draw conclusions.

Interval scales measure the difference between responses and are ideal for questions with equidistant responses. For instance, a scale from 1 to 5 measuring satisfaction levels, where each step up represents an equal increase in satisfaction.

Ratio scales, on the other hand, not only show the differences between responses but also have a true zero point. Could be useful in questions about frequency or quantity, where ‘0’ indicates ‘none’ or ‘never.’

📚 Read also: Understanding People’s Opinions with Likert Scale Examples.

Include demographic questions

Demographic questions (age, gender, location, etc.) are imperative for segmenting and give you a broader context for your research. Include them at the beginning of the survey, but remember that gender-related questions might be sensitive for some. Make sure there’s an “I don’t want to answer this question” option.

Pre-test the survey 

Conduct a pilot test of your survey with a small audience before full deployment. This helps in identifying and rectifying any confusing or misleading questions.

Avoid leading or biased questions

Ensure that the questions are neutral and do not lead the respondent towards a particular answer. Biased questions can skew your data and compromise the integrity of your analysis.

Opt for multiple-choice where possible 

Multiple-choice questions are easier to analyze than narrative responses. They provide structured data that can be easily quantified and compared.

Key takeaways

  • Set clear goals for your survey to understand what data you need to collect.
  • Clean your data – remove errors and irrelevant responses for smoother analysis.
  • Organize your survey data well to make it easier to analyze and understand.
  • Separate your data into numbers (quantitative) and words (qualitative) for a detailed study.
  • Use different methods like charts and comparisons to find trends and draw conclusions.


Data analysis: it’s the primary step in turning your survey responses into clear, actionable insights.

If you want to make the process easier, consider using SurveyLab. It’s user-friendly and helps you get the most out of your surveys. 

Check out SurveyLab for your next project and see the difference it makes. Sign in today!

FAQ on How to Analyze Survey Data

Do you have any questions? Maybe we have already answered it. 

How do you analyze data from a survey?

Categorize and interpret the responses. First, sort the survey data into qualitative and quantitative types. Use data analysis methods to catch key trends and insights. Employ statistical analysis techniques to find statistically significant patterns. Always align your analysis with the original research questions and objectives.

Which method is used to analyze survey results?

Researchers usually combine data analysis methods. They use statistical analysis to understand trends and significance and qualitative methods for open-ended responses. Cross-tabulation is often applied for comparing different data sets, while regression analysis can help understand relationships between variables.

What is the best tool to analyze survey data?

Surveylab offers intelligent analysis, and you can use it for both analysis and survey creation. 

The tool generates survey reports automatically as soon as the first responses are collected. There are useful filters to find all the info you need in seconds. On top of that, exporting the results takes a few clicks.

The tool also provides plenty of survey templates that are customizable, so you don’t have to build a questionnaire from scratch (but you can if you feel like it).

What is the survey data analysis?

It relies on interpreting responses to structured questions using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Excellent for extracting customer insights, demographic data and determining statistical significance that provides a more accurate picture of your survey results.

How do you manually analyze questionnaire data?

It’s organizing and interpreting responses. For quantitative data, consider calculating numerical trends. For qualitative data, look for themes in open-ended responses. Summarize these findings to answer your research question with clear, actionable insights.

How do you analyze survey data qualitatively?

Qualitative analysis of survey data uses narrative and open-ended responses. Look for common themes and insights that provide depth beyond numerical data. 

How to conduct a quantitative survey analysis?

Focus on statistical analysis of numerical data. Identify trends, calculate statistical significance, and use tools like regression analysis to understand variable relationships. The quantitative method is suited for structured surveys, where each response contributes to statistically significant findings.

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