Summarizing Training Evaluation Survey Results: How to Code Verbatim Answers

HighligherMost training evaluation survey forms include qualitative or open ended/long answer questions.  These questions elicit verbatim responses i.e. the participant’s words describing their thoughts that answer the question.  While it may be tempting to summarize the training evaluation survey results by reporting out on some of the comments or even presenting to management, a board or advisory committee all of the verbatim answers, a better solution is to code the verbatim answers.

Coding is a way to quantify common themes in qualitative answers.  Here is a simple method for coding qualitative responses on training evaluation surveys.

  1. Print out the verbatim answers
  2. Get 4-5 colours of highlighters
  3. Draw a short line with each highlighter in the margin
  4. Read the first few verbatims and see if you can see a common theme among them.  If you do, write a short phrase that describes the thought on the first highlighter line.  For example, say you have drawn a green, blue, yellow and orange highlighter line in the margin.   You read the first 3-4 answers and they all mention that the instructor was very knowledgeable/knew their stuff etc.  On the green line write “knowledgeable instructor”.  Now use the green highlighter and when you see a comment that is similar to “knowledgeable instructor”, highlight it green.  Do the same with your other colours of highlighter by picking common themes.  This method should help you identify the top 4-5 themes.
  5. Once you’ve finished highlighting the answers with all 4-5 markers, then count the number of phrases highlighted with each highlighter colour.
  6. Then create a table with the columns “Common Themes” and “Number of Responses”.  Write the phrases in the first column and the counts for each phrase in the second column.

This method is best used for surveys where you sample size is 50 or less (i.e. n=50).  Do you use another method for coding verbatim responses?  If you do, please share in the comment section below.

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Copyright © 2013 Joni Rose of Career Minded Consulting Services. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright. Please contact Joni Rose for reprint permission. 

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