The Best Ways for Laying Out Qualitative Data From Marketing Research Results

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A pie chart is a graph commonly used to illustrate qualitative data.
A pie chart is a graph commonly used to illustrate qualitative data. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Qualitative data can be difficult to illustrate. The best method of presenting data, qualitative or quantitative, is through the use of graphs. Several graphing methods can illustrate qualitative and quantitative data. A visual representation of the data gathered can help you quickly convey what the data is describing without going into an in-depth explanation, which may not be easily understood without graphs, anyway. A graph is a quick, efficient way to grab attention and describe an idea without using too much time or too many words.

What is Qualitative Data?

Data is measured using one of two forms: qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative data is non-numerical data used to describe an object or thing. Quantitative data, by contrast, is used to measure and is numerical in form. For instance, when describing an object such as M&M's, there are several colors that can be used to describe the candy. The candies can be sorted in groups of brown, yellow, green or blue, among others. These colors represent qualitative attributes of the M&M's.

Types of Qualitative Marketing Data

Marketing data is used to determine how products or services are performing. Marketing research may include survey results or consumer reviews. If, for instance, a fast-food chain gathers data about the satisfaction of a consumer after eating a food item -- with such choices as “unsatisfied,” “neutral” or “satisfied” -- these results are qualitative in nature. Once the surveys are gathered, the data would be compiled by counting the results of each outcome.

Graphs for Qualitative Data

Qualitative data can be illustrated using several graphs. Two well-known graphs are the bar chart and pie chart. The bar chart shows the data as it is, a count of each attribute. If a satisfaction survey from a fast-food chain found 50 customers “satisfied,” four “neutral” and 225 “unsatisfied,” a bar chart would quickly illustrate that the result of “unsatisfied” far outweighs the other two results.

A pie chart shows the data after it is converted to a percentage. The data can be turned into a percent by dividing each value by the total number of responses gathered. For instance, the percent responding “satisfied” is 50 divided by 279, or 17.92 percent. The same can be done for “neutral” and “unsatisfied” -- those values divided by 279 will yield 1.43 percent and 80.65 percent, respectively. When graphed in a pie chart, the data shows that unsatisfied is the most common survey answer compared to the others.

Additional Tips for Graphing Qualitative Data

Qualitative data can be easily graphed using tools such as Microsoft Excel. By listing the qualitative values in the left-hand column and the quantities in the right-hand column, you can highlight the data and select Insert > Graph to choose a bar chart. Similarly, the data can be automatically converted to percentages and highlighted to insert a pie chart.

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