Free text analysis

Do you make best use of the rich data in the free text comments from surveys?

There is a wealth of information within survey respondents’ free text comments, but all too often these are overlooked in favour of the tick-box responses.

We can analyse this free text data and provide you data-driven summaries of the issues raised and prevalence of the different topics. This helps to shed more light on the tick box responses in your survey, for example by telling you not just whether respondents are satisfied or dissatisfied, but why this might be the case and which aspects of provision have caused this view.


If required, we can formulate recommendations based on the key messages from the data to help you in planning developments.

Our free text analysis involves our researchers reading all comments and making decisions on the topics they refer to and we have strict verification and quality control processes in place. We don't use automated text analysis tools, we find that the human brain provides far more accurate and nuanced results than a machine!

Seymour Research provided a very useful and quick service for analysing the NSS open comments, which saved my team days of time! I would definitely recommend.

Kim Winter

Nottingham Trent University

Case study

We regularly use free text analysis techniques in our overall survey analysis work, but we also offer free text analysis as a standalone service for surveys such as the National Student Survey (NSS), the Student Barometer and in-house satisfaction surveys. For example, several universities commission us to analyse the free text comments made in response to the open-ended NSS question which asks students to describe the most positive and most negative aspects of their experience.


Our researchers read each comment and develop a coding frame (i.e. a list of common themes/topics) based on what the students refer to in their comments. We do not used automated free text analysis techniques or software since we find that reading and manually coding the comments produces a far more accurate representation of what was said and, by reading and coding the entire comment rather than searching for key words and segments within the text, we can account for the context in which a comment was made. The outputs from the analysis are tailored to meet the needs of the client and can range from a spreadsheet of coded comments with a summary table of the topics mentioned and the frequency with which they were mentioned, through to a full written report or in-person presentation of the findings.


Our clients have told us that this additional analysis has helped them to gain a deeper understanding of students’ opinions and experiences on which to base future developments; many come back to us year after year so that they can monitor shifts in opinion and take action before minor niggles escalate into major causes of dissatisfaction.

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