Using Survey Software to Analyze Your Answers I
Survey software varies vary widely in terms of how much help it will give analyzing your survey results and producing reports. The simplest programs or services will just tell you how many people pick each answer choice. Those that are step up can show you a simple bar chart as well. The next step from that are those that will let you create simple cross tabs. These can let you see how men answered versus how women answered and provide other simple comparisons. Most of these packages are either not intended for use by serious researchers or expect you to do your main analysis in another platform.
A relatively small number of the most sophisticated packages provide extensive analysis tools. One of these is the ability to create banner format tables. A banner lets you see multiple cross tabs side-by-side. If a package offers only simple cross tabs, you have to produce one table to compare how men and women answered, another to compare how different age groups answered, another to see different income groups and so on. A banner lets you see all these comparisons side-by-side. This is both a more compact way to present reports and also helps you more easily locate individual groups that stand out from others in terms of how many pick particular choices, give items higher ratings or otherwise answered differently.
The most sophisticated survey software gives you many options to modify the contents and appearance of your tables. The most common tables show the answers to multiple-choice questions, in which each row on the table represents an answer choice. You should have the flexibility of whether you see frequencies: how many people pick each answer, column percents: what percentage of the people in each column picked that answer, wrote percents: what percentage the people picking a choice in each column represents of the total number of people picking that choice and percents of total: the percentage of all the answers given to the question represented by the people in each data cell.
On questions that allow more than one answer per person, such as “Which of the following magazines do you read?” you should be able to choose whether the percentages shown represent the percentages of the people that pick a choice or the percentages of all the answers represented by the people who pick that choice. For example, suppose you have a question in which 10 people give 20 answers. If one answer is picked 5 times, do you want to see that as 50% of the 10 people or 25% of the 20 answers?
The next blog post will discuss more options the most capable programs offer on tables and other reports.