Visualizing Qualitative Data
Information Design

Visualizing Qualitative Data

Qualitative data can provide valuable insights that help the operation team understand the sentiments of the population affected by a disaster. The operation team may collect qualitative data in the form of post-distribution monitoring surveys, community engagement and accountability (CEA) activities, or various assessments. As part of SIMS, you may be tasked with producing a visualization of the qualitative data collected, so here are some ideas to consider for your qualitative data visualization.

This guide contains information from the IFRC Data Playbook, 2021 Edition.

  1. Change photos (before and after): A photo pair is an impactful way to visualize a change with minimal text. For example, showing a photo of the same landscape before and after a disaster struck provokes an emotional reaction from the audience.
  2. Diagram: Take a paragraph of text and think about how the key points could be visualized in a diagram (e.g. Venn diagram, workflow, mindmap, etc.). They can also help to categorize information. Here are some examples of diagrams you can explore.
  3. Journey map: This is a helpful way to clarify a vague process or decision pathway. It helps you visualize the factors that influence a person’s decisions. It also informs ways to streamline processes and improve the user experience in a human-centered way. Here is an example of a journey map produced for an IFRC operation.
  4. Network map: Use a network map to visualize connections between qualitative data points. It can help your audience to understand how information is clustered, or if there is a hierarchy of information.
  5. Timeline: Opinions and perspectives may change over time. You can use a timeline to visualize how your qualitative data changes over a time period. Make sure to highlight key points in the timeline that may explain or influence what your data is showing. Here is a guide on how to make an operational timeline that can be adapted for many uses.
  6. Gauge chart: A gauge chart can be used quantitatively or qualitatively. You may want to use it to visualize qualitative responses if you are aiming to show where the majority of responses fall in relation to a certain desired range (rather than a specific target).
  7. Heatmap: Heatmaps allow you to visualize opinions or impressions that are thematically coded into different groups. The reader can easily see where opinions are the strongest because those are visualized as having the most “heat” or the most vibrant color.
  8. Histomap: If you want to track qualitative trends over time and you are able to code that data into different categories, a histomap may be an appropriate visualization option. A histomap is one of the oldest methods of visualizing qualitative data over time.
  9. Icon sets: Graduated icon sets can be used to represent qualitative judgements or opinions. Here for example, reponses can be categorized into relevant quadrants: 100% blue is excellent; 75% blue is good; 50% red is not good; 100% red is terrible.
  10. Spectrum display: A spectrum display allows you to display the broad results of your qualitative data, but is organized in a way that makes it easy for the reader to understand the stories within the dataset. Learn more about how to make a spectrum display here.

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