Best Practice

Analyzing survey data with ATLAS.ti Desktop

Conducting surveys can be a great way to get a wide range of information about your research topic. But, how can we keep all this data organized?
Susanne Friese
Product specialist, trainer and author of the book "Qualitative Data Analysis with ATLAS.ti"
  1. Introduction
  2. How does it work?
  3. How to import the survey data
  4. Exploring survey data with ATLAS.ti
  5. Finding and coding relevant concepts
  6. Comparing data
  7. Wrapping up


Conducting surveys can be a great way to get a wide range of information about your research topic. But, how can we keep all this survey dataorganized? How can we analyze the results for overarching patterns and trends? ATLAS.ti Windows and Mac can help you manage and draw insights from your survey data. Not only can ATLAS.ti automatically organize all the responses, but it can also pre-code the data in one click. This article will outline how you can import your survey data and take advantage of ATLAS.ti’s tools to kick-start your analysis.

How does it work?

A typical workflow looks like this:

  1. Create an online survey and collect responses

  2. Download and save the survey data in an Excel file
    All survey programs can export the data as an Excel table. This is what you need to import the data into ATLAS.ti.

  3. Import the responses (Excel file) into ATLAS.ti.
    Since version 22 of ATLAS. ti, there is no longer the need to prepare the data following a specific format. You select the Import Survey option, and a wizard guides you through the process of adding the data. You decide which section should make up the document name (e.g., the respondent number, the IP address, an email, a name), which variables should be turned into document groups for later data comparisons, and which columns in the Excel table contain answers to open-ended questions.

You can import a mix of closed-ended and open-ended questions. Each row of the Excel spreadsheet (i.e., each respondent) will be converted into one document; if you have 30 respondents, you will have 30 new documents in your project.

Figure 1: Survey Import Wizard

And that’s it! Each participant becomes a document, and content is collected from the answers to the open-ended questions. Document groups are created from single and multiple-choice questions. Quotations are made for each answer and coded with the respective question (you may use whichever code you wish). This accomplishes a lot of tedious pre-coding in a few seconds.

Get started with what matters: your analysis!

How do I import my survey data?

Once your survey data in the Excel spreadsheet is ready, you can import it into ATLAS.ti Windows/Mac. In ATLAS.ti Windows, you will find the survey import option under the “Import & Export tab.” In ATLAS.ti Mac, the survey import option is located under the “Document” menu (see the figures below).

Figure 2: Import survey data in ATLAS.ti Windows
Figure 3: Import survey data in ATLAS.ti Mac

Click on “Import survey,” select your Excel file, and that’s it! You can now see all of your participants added as individual documents. In each document, you will see that participant’s responses to the open-ended questions, and these have already been pre-coded. If you open the document manager, you can see all of the automatically created groups (see figures below). From the code manager, you can explore the created codes, their comments, and the associated quotations.

Figure 4: Document manager in ATLAS.ti after importing survey data

Now that your survey data is added, organised, and pre-coded, you can proceed to analyse your data! Manually code the responses, use auto-coding, write and associate memos to your data, create networks, and use the different advanced analysis tools to draw your insights and conclusions.

Exploring data with ATLAS.ti

Do you want to obtain a quick global overview of your participants’ responses? You can explore your data by generating word clouds and word lists. This also allows you to compare the usage of words by different groups of respondents.

Figure 5: Comparing the use of words by different groups of respondents
Figure 6: Using word lists to compare the usage of words

Finding and coding relevant concepts

As a next step, you can run a concept search. This means ATLAS.ti analyses your data and looks for relevant concepts. You can review the result, select what you find interesting and auto-code the data.

To start a concept search in ATLAS.ti Windows select the Search & Code tab and from there Concepts.

In ATLAS.ti Mac, select Analysis / Concepts Table from the main menu.

As soon as you select an entity, ATLAS.ti begins to analyze the data. The results are displayed in the form of a word cloud. Optional, you can also view the result as a list. Just change the view option to List.

Figure 7: Let ATLAS.ti suggest relevant concepts

If you hoover over a concept or select it, the noun phrases it is based upon are displayed. If you click on a concept or any of the noun phrases, the data surrounding the concept/noun phrase are shown on the right-hand side in the Quotation Reader.

If you find something interesting that you want to code, click on the Apply Proposed Codes button in the ribbon (Windows) or on the Code with Concept button in the toolbar in the Mac version.

Comparing Data

To compare and contrast the attitudes of various groups of respondents after coding, you can use the Code-Document Table. The table below shows the different pro and contra arguments respondents have given who have 1, 2, and 3 children.

Figure 8: Code-Document Table for group comparisons

Wrapping up

ATLAS.ti is a powerful tool for analyzing survey data and open-ended responses. The software can help you instantly organize and pre-code your data, whether you have 40 or 4000 survey responses. Kick-start your survey analysis with ATLAS.ti. You can then focus on analyzing your data in-depth, gathering insights in memos, comparing and contrasting respondent answers, and telling the story of your data.