Qualitative data is information that is in language form. In other words, it is the survey data that is obtained in response to open-ended questions. In an ideal world, all qualitative survey data should be coded according to the following steps. First, at least one experienced coder should read all the responses to a specific survey question, for example, “How could we improve customer service?” They will then begin to develop primary themes or groupings of data. They will then revisit the data, reading through each response and categorizing into one or more themes. As they work through the data, they will begin to refine the categories. In this way, coding can be characterized as an iterative process. Statistical software packages, such as NVivo are particularly invaluable to this process.
Content analysis can also be performed using software packages that have robust, well-developed sentiment analysis that uses preloaded themes to sort and organize written comments. This is particularly valuable for extremely large data sets. While these types of statistical software packages, such as SPSS Text Analytics, are particularly advanced, the data analysis should still be reviewed and refined by a human coder to ensure the raw meaning of the response is translated correctly.