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Turning Survey Data into Narratives: Create Storytelling Magic with Data

Aimee Laurence

Last Updated:  

31 May 2024

5 min read

Data is an incredible tool – there’s no doubting that. No one can argue with cold, hard statistics, so wanting to turn this to your advantage is only natural.

However, most of your audience, your employees, partners or clients, won’t get a complicated graph or diagram or reels of numbers and percentages. They may even be unable to decipher them, leading to accessibility issues with your data resources. So how can you fix this?

By turning survey data into narratives, that’s how.

You don’t just get reader-friendly resources when you learn to tell a story with your previously unusable data. You’ve also found a simple way to win over anyone, from boardroom audiences to your next big client. But how can you do this? Using the tools available with SurveySparrow, this article will walk you through the basics of crafting that intimidating pile of data into a compelling story.

Step 1: Be concise

Now, this might sound simple but mind you – being selective and concise is one of the most essential steps to turning survey data into narratives.

“If you’re doing data collection right, then you probably have a lot of data on your hands, and that’s great. But not for the reason that most people think,” states Valorie Reyes, a tech writer at Ox Essays and AustralianHelp. “Since you don’t need lots and lots of data; you need to be able to pick the best data that you have and then turn that into something that you can use.”

Luckily, you don’t need to painstakingly comb through all that data to spot the interesting nuggets. Instead, SurveySparrow’s features like real-time reporting and question-level analysis automatically help you get top-level insights. 

turning survey data into narratives: real-time reporting by SurveySparrow

A: Get updated with real-time reports

Real-time reporting can help you get up-to-the-minute data on the survey performance. For example, real-time survey reporting should give you an overview of the visits as the survey happens. It should also show the number of completions, the completion rate, and the average time to finish the form. 

Related: How to monitor the survey performance in SurveySparrow

B: Zoom in with question-level analysis

The next place to look at is the responses to each question. So, assuming that each question measures a different metric, this will help you categorize the answers for each metric. 

For e.g., say you ask your employees to rate how happy they are at work on a scale of one to five. First, you can analyze the number of responses and response percentage for each answer option. Then, you categorize them accordingly. E.g., 50% of employees are happy at work. 

Related: Analyzing responses at the question-level in SurveySparrow

The first step when doing anything involving data is to look at what you have and think: ‘How much of this do I actually need?’.

Step 2: Deploy filters

Adding onto that, if you’re collecting data from any sort of survey, then you’ll likely want to use a filter. Not every survey result will be useful, and some may actively ruin the point you’re trying to make. 

For example, if you only want relatively optimistic data, then using a filter to work through the overly negative statistics will work in your favor. This will still give you enough data at the end to work with.

Many online survey tools provide filters if you want to use one. But if you’ve created your own survey, then hiring someone to work through the data for you would also count as a filter and be beneficial.

Related: How to use advanced report filters and hidden questions

Step 3: Pick suitable quotes

Obviously, this won’t work if your survey excludes open-ended questions where participants write their own responses. So, if this isn’t you, then consider putting some into your survey. Open-ended responses can offer unthought-of perspectives, and a single quote could be the make-or-break point for the story you’re trying to create.

Open-ended response from an LGBTQ+ survey

“Even though many open-ended answers will be simple and unusable, or even just empty, you will almost always get a few gems,” says Matilda King, a survey analyst at Academized and Paper Fellows. “So it’s worth going through your responses to pick out just one or two quotes which you can use in presentations, meetings, or even arguments, to be honest!”

Human feedback is such a valuable piece of data. So make sure that you find something to use in the narrative that you’re trying to create. And hold onto it because it’s such a fantastic resource.

Related: How to categorize responses based on sentiments

Step 4: Choose a format

Now you’ve got the data you need and included a quote or two to back it up. But how are you going to create a visually appealing resource to help turn survey data into an engaging narrative?

Well, there are several options available for you. 

SurveySparrow - executive dashboard
SurveySparrow’s Executive dashboard gives you 360 degree insights.

A: Spot the pattern with a data dashboard

Survey dashboards tell your narrative in a visually appealing way. First, you can select the charts you want to show and choose the metrics to compare. Then, you can arrange them as widgets in one place, exactly like the dashboard of a car.

Related: How to use the Executive Dashboard in SurveySparrow

B: Drill deeper with individual question reports

Suppose you want to go beyond the top-level results and summarize the responses at the question level. You can do that by downloading the individual report for that question. 

Related: How to download question-wise reports

What makes a good doggy? This wordcloud tells us.

C: Get proof positive with the power of words

Word clouds are super helpful for compiling lots of short quotes and theme words. They look stunning when complete and provide a human touch to the numbers at your disposal.

You can test out SurveySparrow’s wordcloud feature with a free account. 


With the steps above, you have now learned the basics of turning survey data into narratives.

All this is not to say that even a well-made and clear graph can’t be powerful!

It is also a very good idea to include your chosen format in a presentation. You can display it alongside written information that emphasizes the story which you are trying to tell. In the end, it’s up to you and the type of purpose your data is going to serve.

Aimee Laurence

Aimee Laurence works as an HR manager, and also writes extensively about her career, which is one of her main passions in life. She also contributes to a blog centered around college life, since that part of her life impacted her greatly.

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