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We asked our users what's their main goal of current visit (open question). We received a lot of answers and I'm wondering what would be the best approach to analyze this data. In theory I could assign a person to read through it, but I would rather not take the chance of having biased data.

Any ideas?

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Unless you have a large budget, alternatives to having a person (or group of people) parse the data are potentially complex and unreliable.

Card Sort a Folksonomy

Card sorting is a simple technique in user experience design where a group of subject experts or "users", however inexperienced with design, are guided to generate a category tree or folksonomy.

A folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and translating tags to annotate and categorize content; this practice is also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, and social tagging.

In Practice

Depending on your results and expertise, this initial card sorting is something you can probably do alone. If, however, you need to take a more qualitative approach (e.g. you need to give scores to, or add weights to answers) it's advisable to work in a group.

In that case, try to get 3-5 people in a room with a projector and and whiteboard. Pull up the answers and start parsing. Discuss what you think the core point of an answer is and decide what category that might belong in. Initially, for the sake of speed, you can just focus on naming your categories. As you parse more answers the names and numbers of your categories will evolve.

The outcome of a session like this could be that you've categorized all your answers and are are ready to start putting the results to use (e.g. in a presentation), or you may just have decided on a list of categories and potentially a scoring rubric that can be handed off to someone else to use in the processing of the data.

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    +1; however I think the real outcome from a session like this is more likely to be "that's the last time we ask an open ended question" – NotMe Nov 7 '14 at 20:07
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Well if you want to remove reader bias, you can try feeding all of the responses into a word cloud generator. That way keywords will stand out. And perhaps there's enough there for you to spot trends within your responses.

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