How to Turn Qualitative Research Data into Usable, Meaningful Insights

Qualitative research data can be overwhelming, but with the right approach, it can provide valuable insights. Learn how to turn raw data into actionable insights.

Reshu Rathi
March 24, 2023
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Qualitative research plays an increasingly important role in most businesses’ success these days. Though most organizations invest in qualitative research to understand their users’ needs and expectations in-depth, very few are mining the intelligence hidden in their qualitative research data.  

Why? Because when it comes to qualitative research, conducting it is easy, but turning this raw data into deep insights and actionable steps takes a lot of work. However, this is a crucial step to integrating research successfully into your practice.  

This article aims to provide guidelines to get maximum value from qualitative research, analyze and synthesize the qualitative research data you’ve collected, and turn it into valuable, powerful insights.

Why Is It Important to Analyze Qualitative Research Data?  

Before we jump into how to convert qualitative research data into actionable insights, let’s first discuss why it is crucial to analyze qualitative data.

When dealing with issues in your product, qualitative data can help you find the root issue in your product or service, as the voice of your users will be represented in this data.  

Suppose you’re testing the checkout process on your e-commerce website. Quantitative data provides information on how many people face problems during checkout. But often, they need a different approach to coax them to say why they faced the problem. With qualitative data, you can find the answer to why users experience the problem and how to fix the issue.  

The non-numeric data collected during qualitative research will give you a clear picture of what users say and feel about your products, services, website, and mobile app.  

How to Leverage Qualitative Research Data?

Qualitative research may be difficult to measure or quantify, but you can convert this data into valuable insights using these principles and practices.

Qualitative Research Data

#1 Set Clear Goals  

You’ve heard this rule before – be clear about your goals. Many research teams forget or ignore this rule.  

Before conducting qualitative research (or any other research), one crucial step you must follow is: setting a clear goal. The more precise your goals, the easier it will be to plan an effective research effort and also to analyze research data later.  

For instance, if you are working on an e-commerce site and want shoppers to increase their order value, crafting a hypothesis to frame your research questions and narrow the scope of your effort can be useful.  

This hypothesis framework is most helpful when assessing a potential solution. But if you’re in an exploratory stage, you should be open to more than specific solutions, but you can still narrow your exploration focus.  

The most successful research teams set clear objectives before investing significant amounts of time, effort, and budget in qualitative research.

Key take away: Remember, your qualitative research efforts’ success begins even before you collect a single piece of data. You must set clear research goals and design the proper study to answer the questions. If you don’t capture the right data, it doesn’t really matter how thorough your process is or how well you analyze it.

#2 Organize Your Qualitative Data  

Now that you’ve set the goals for your research and have conducted the research, the next step is organizing your findings. Organizing qualitative data can be challenging, but it is one of the most critical steps to get value from qualitative research data, so be sure to take your time here.

When it comes to qualitative research, organizing even a small amount of data can seem overwhelming. Because even with just a handful of interviews, you would have hours of recordings and multiple pages of notes or transcripts. So, how do you organize all this information? Well, you need to create a single repository of all these conversations.

Once you have a single repository of all your qualitative research conversations, you can immerse yourself in the raw data. You and your team members can read through notes, listen to recordings, or review the written transcripts of the sessions. But be sure to look at the data from different perspectives to minimize bias. Because everyone processes information differently, you can gain a deeper perspective and understanding by examining the same piece of information differently. An easy solution to gathering all your research data in one place and analyzing it without bias is to use a platform like Decode, which is a one-stop solution for all your qualitative research data.

It is important to remember to be careful not to start concluding too quickly or narrow your focus too much.  

One of the best things about research, especially user research, is that you’re likely to uncover questions and information you didn’t even know you needed or could look for. So, don’t limit yourself to only paying attention to what you thought you’d hear; remind yourself of the topics of interest and business goals.  

#3 Mine Your Qualitative Data

The next step is to mine the data to pinpoint specific observations or any negative information that stands out. You can do this part of the process in two ways: manually mining the data or using the software.

Ideally, anyone involved with the research should be encouraged to help with analysis and synthesis, as mining qualitative data can be challenging. Also, by involving multiple researchers in the process, you can increase the validity of your qualitative analysis.  

But what if you have a lot of data? When faced with mountains of transcripts or recordings of hundreds of interviews, you need a solid strategy for mining and analysis. With that much data, manual mining isn’t an option.  

You need the right tools for the job. Selecting the right tool to help you get value from your qualitative research is half the job done. The one that lets you conduct qualitative research, creates a single repository of all this data, and automatically extracts patterns from your qualitative research data would be ideal.  

Remember, mining is just this first part, where we’ve broken down the data and identified facts. The next part is where we synthesize or start to make connections and turn the data into meaningful takeaways.

#4 Filter Out Actionable Insights

Now that you’ve organized and mined your data, it’s time to identify patterns. You can start by looking for connections between your findings, business goals, and research objectives.

Ideally, at this step, you should revisit your original research objectives and compare them to the patterns you’ve identified. Sometimes the connection between your questions and findings may be obvious. But, other times, you may need to extrapolate.  

It’s not enough to identify facts. As a UX researcher, it is your job to build and tell a story about what you found so that people can understand and act on the information.  

So, pay attention to how you document your work. While there’s no one right way to summarize your work, you need to consider who will read these research reports and their technical expertise and summarize accordingly.  

For instance, if you know your findings will be shared with executives who are unfamiliar with the project, you need to present your report differently than if you’re making a readout for your product team.  

While designing your report, here are a few basic principles to follow:

  • It should be easy to digest.
  • It should be in simple language.
  • It should be easy to scan and read.

Also, you need to provide the facts and context around what you’ve collected the data and help the team figure out where to go next.  

Going Beyond Research: How to Turn Qualitative Data into Insights

Conducting qualitative research is easy; generating insights from it is hard. It’s easy to gather lots of data but making it an asset is tough. The above steps can help you convert qualitative research data into actionable insights.

Want to gain insights into user behavior and thoughts? Affect UX can make it easy for you to conduct, collect, and understand your quantitative and qualitative research data.


Supercharge your research with actionable insights faster on Decode's integrated consumer research platform with Insights AI.
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Build the Right Products, the Right Way: Elevate your UX with Qatalyst's integrated user research platform with Insights AI.


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Author Bio

Reshu Rathi
Reshu Rathi is an online marketing and conversion rate enthusiast. She specializes in content marketing, lead generation, and engagement strategy. Her byline can be found all over the web

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