Word Clouds for Fun and Qualitative Data Analysis

A number of services have sprung up on the web to generate “word clouds” – pictures showing each word in a body of text, where the size of word is based on how frequently the word is used (you can read more about their history on wikipedia). Word clouds are a great way to visualize qualitative data you have – interviews, quotes, etc. Typically you go through some kind of “coding” process to figure out what the common topics are between responses.  World clouds offer another path – automatically showing you the most commonly used words by making them bigger.  Here’s an example word cloud – made out of feedback from my last set of workshops:

Two of my favorite websites that offer this are Wordle and Tagxedo.  Wordle is simpler, but less powerful (I used it to make the picture above).  Tagxedo is more complex, but offers the awesome option to have your cloud be in the shape of an image you upload.

Why You Should Use Word Clouds

Word clouds are a fun way to explore and share your text-based data. I suggest using them as an introduction to a topic area, allowing you to give a general overview with a compelling visual before diving into specifics.  Make a poster of a word cloud in the shape of your logo, built out of your mission statement.  Present a word cloud picture of all your free-text survey responses to find out the common topics, present the image as an overview and then share one or two evocative quotes.

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