Online Surveys = Ongoing Insights

New! Categorize Your Open-Ended Text Responses

New! Categorize Your Open-Ended Text Responses

Last week, I posted about how to use our new Text Analysis features to get a quick summary of your open-ended text responses. Today, I will show you how to use Text Analysis to categorize your text responses and turn qualitative data into quantifiable responses you can perform further analysis on.

Categorizing, or coding, text responses is a common way to systematically analyze the feedback in open-ended answers.  And now you can do it all right in SurveyMonkey–no downloading and no manual counting!

There are a few different ways to put a text response into a category. The first is to select a category for a single response from the Responses tab in your summary report. When you click to view text responses for any question, you will see that each response has a “Categorize As” link. Clicking there will open a drop-down menu that includes all the categories you have already created for that question (You can always create a new category by clicking on the ‘Create New’ button):

Clicking on a category name will put the response into that category. You can also select multiple categories using the checkboxes, then click ‘Apply’ to put the response in all of the selected categories at once.

After you have put a text response into one or more categories, you will see a color-coded tag next to the response for each category:

You can also apply categories to multiple text responses at the same time. To do that, simply select all of the text responses you want to categorize by clicking on the checkboxes to the left of the text. (You can also click on the checkbox at the top left of the Responses window to select ALL text responses.) Once you have all the responses selected, click on the ‘Categorize As’ button at the top of the Responses window. You will see the same drop-down menu as described above for the single text responses. From there you can apply one or more categories to all selected responses:

Pro Tip: Combine our text analysis features for easy categorizations. You can click on any of the words from the word cloud in the Text Analysis tab to get a filtered list of responses that include that word or phrase. Then, use the top checkbox to select all responses and you can easily categorize all of the responses that include the word or phrase.

Once you have categorized your responses, click on the My Categories tab to see the number of responses in each of your categories. You now have quantitative analysis of your open-ended text responses:

The percentages displayed at the right show the portion of total responses for that question. (NOTE: the percentages won’t always add up to 100%, because responses can have multiple categories, and in the case of multiple-choice questions, not every response is necessarily an open-ended text response.)

Pro Tip: At the bottom of the list of categories in the My Categories tab, you will see a listing for Uncategorized responses. This will tell you how many responses have not been placed into any category yet. It also provides a simple way to read through only the uncategorized responses. Just click on the ‘Uncategorized’ tag or the ‘View Responses’ link beneath it, and you will return to the Responses tab, filtered to display only the uncategorized text entries.

Your categories will be saved with your data so you can always come back and see them. They’ll also be included in the file when you download your data.

So if you always wanted to count the ‘other’ responses together with the multiple-choice responses, or you wanted to count ‘positive’ answers vs. ‘negative’, or just tag some of the open-ended responses as ‘favorites’, now you can do all of that–without leaving SurveyMonkey.

Have questions about our new Text Analysis features, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Josh is a Sr. Product Manager at SurveyMonkey, author of The Double-Down Guide to Blackjack, and the creator of

Tags: , , , ,

  • Rachel

    Can you please look into giving a sort option on the open ended answers to sort by ‘most recent’ vs. ‘from the beginning of time’? I have some ongoing surveys where I just need to check the most recent responses to see if they need follow-up and scrolling to the bottom of the list every time is kind of a pain.


    • Rachel–thanks for the feedback and suggestion. We really appreciate it!

  • Excellent work buddy, keep that up

    • Bill

      The category feature is great. A (maybe simple) extension to it would allow categories created for a question to be available across a survey. The survey I am analyzing at the moment has some open ended questions for which there is a good degree of overlap in the categories that responses fall into. Right now I’ve created a ‘master list’ on a doc alongside me so that I can use the same words (and colours) and make for a consistent analysis. Being able to have categories added to a master list when they are created and have and be able to select from this list to populate the categories for each question within the survey would be good.

  • Aaron

    I have been using your category feature to summarize my open-ended responses. Now I am looking for a way to download the “categorized summary” along with the rest of the response summary. Is there a way to do this? Can this be added in a future release?

    • Great suggestion Aaron! Will pass on to the team. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and comment.

  • It would be helpful if there were more color options for categories because for 1 question I ended up sorting them into 10 categories, so having multiple categories the same color isn’t as helpful. Also, can you allow the category labels have more than 25 characters? Even just 30 would be very helpful. Thank you

    • Hanna J

      Elena – Thanks for your feedback! Those are great suggestions. I’ll pass them along to our product team. Have a great weekend!

  • Mike Sotiriadis

    Loving this categorizing feature for quantifying open-ended responses. My next step though is to use these categories I’ve made as critera for the crosstab analysis.
    We want to see how all of one category of respondents (VP’s, for example) answered all questions in the survey versus the others (Directors, Managers, etc.). Is there a way to do this? If not, this is where I cast my vote for future functionality.

    • Kayte K

      Hi Mike!

      Thanks for the question. Check out this quick video tutorial on using cross-tabbing from our Help Center:

      Let us know if that helps!

      • Mike Sotiriadis

        Thanks for the response! I understand the concept of cross-tabbing, but I’m wondering if/when it might be possible to take an open-ended response question, for which I’ve (manually) categorized the responses into a finite group of categories, as described in this blog post, and use that question as the criteria to cross-tabulate from.

        • Kayte K

          Got it! We don’t have that feature yet but it’s a great suggestion and we’ve passed it on to our Product team. Keep an eye out here for updates on that to come.

  • Agree with Bill. I was excited by this feature….UNTIL….I realised that a category created in one question isn’t “saved” and available to use in another question in the same survey, or in another different survey. This to me makes a potentially useful feature next to useless. To use this in any kind of basic qualitative content analysis way, we’d need to enter the name of the category manually each time for each question. I hope I’m not wrong but this seems so obvious I can’t work out why it was missed, or perhaps it’s being developed at the moment?

    Cheers and thanks


    • Kayte K

      Hi Philip! Thank you for your feedback- we’ve passed this on to our Product Team. Appreciate your insights!

  • SLB

    Hello. If I categorize by job position as you did in your example, how would I then export the responses by job category. When I categorize job positions in the first question as you did, that does not categorize their individual responses throughout. Is there an easy what to do this?

  • Mandy Caunt

    I am not sure how I download the graphs of “my categories” or the “text analysis” into excel or .pdf All I am getting is a list of categorised responses?

  • SoundersFCFan

    How do I index the downloaded categorized responses back into the overall dataset? The categorized record downloads are not uniquely indexed.

    • kaytek

      Hi there! That’s a question for our tech team. Could you please fill out this quick form:

      Our support team will answer within an hour or two.


  • Brendan

    Is it possible to auto categorise open ended responses? For example I have users select a topic and then they input feedback. Is it possible to auto tag based on their selection? It’s difficult to see what option a user selected that their feedback is about.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Hi Brendan! The “Text Analysis” feature is close! This feature will pick out unique, and commonly used words in open-ended responses. You can then easily click on these words and a list of the open-ended responses with that word will populate. You can then create your own categories! This feature works really great in our New Analyze version. To learn more on Text Analysis, feel free to check out the following help article:

  • JoAnne

    Is it possible to copy categories from one question to another. I have 14 categories and I am having to keep reentering them.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Hi JoAnne! Sadly there isn’t a way to copy categories between questions. The reason for this being that Text Analysis generally brings up different unique text. This can often lead to different category creation.

      However, since it sounds like you’re using the same categories, then your best bet is to copy and paste each category for each open-ended question, and then go through your Text Analysis and apply words to each category. Sorry about not having that feature currently, JoAnne. We’ll be sure to pass this along as a feature request!

  • Lucy Carlson

    I would like to create a chart that looks like the “My Categories” page (showing how many responses are in each category) and export or print that chart.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Hi Lucy,

      We can see how that would definitely be helpful! Right now we don’t have a direct way to chart categories, or open-ended responses. However, you can export the categories via the Excel Summary export option. You can then create your own chats via Excel!

  • Meredith

    I have categorized my responses by location and need to export those individual lists. Is there a way to do that? I looked under “filter” but there’s no option to filter based on category.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Hi there, Meredith!

      Great question. If you have a question which asks your respondent’s location, then you can Filter by Q&A. For example, you would filter by answer choice for the location Portland, Oregon. You can then export with the filter applied:

      Of course, if this is an open-ended response- It can be a bit trickier. You would need to type in the answer for location, and that can vary. It is best to use a Multiple Choice question for demographics. If you’ve categorized locations using the Text Analysis feature, you can export those categories in the Excel Summary report:

  • Dan

    I want to create a filter based on the categories I’ve created for an open-ended response , but it looks as though my only choice is to filter based on all words/any word/exact phrase.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      HI Dan,

      You can definitely filter based on the categories you’ve created in your Text Analysis. You must first create those categories, and then when you go under the “Responses” tab within Text Analysis, you will see the option to filter by category, as shown here:

      Hope that helps out!

      • Dan

        Actually, what I’m trying to do is filter all survey results based on those categories, not just for that individual question.

  • Cortney Copeland

    I accidentally made one of my categories the wrong color, and I have seen nothing about how to edit my categories. How can I delete or edit categories?

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Hi Cortney-

      Happy to help out! You can edit the color by clicking into the My Categories tab of text analysis and click the “edit” link :)

  • Howard Dooley Jr

    I created categories and then categorized data. The next time I opened Survey Monkey, my categories are there, but the data is not categorized. What did I do wrong? Why wasn’t the information saved?

    • MFsurveymonkey

      Hi Howard,

      This odd indeed, categories should automatically be saved for your open ended responses. Could it be that you had a browser issue here? You can reach out to support for some additional help:

  • MFsurveymonkey

    Hi Sarah! Sorry, but I’m not sure I understand your question. Do you mean that you would like your ”other” answer option to be displayed as a comment field for the other fixed answer choices in the question, instead of simply being a fixed answer choice by itself? When you create your ”other” option you can select to display it as an answer choice (in which the respondent would have to type in their answer), or as a comment field (where the respondent has to justify or comment on their choice – while still selecting from the list of answer choices). You can read more about this here:
    If you mean something else, please feel free to correct me and we’ll go from there :)

Inspired? Create your own survey.

Make your own survey.

Sign In  

Sign up to get started.

PRO Sign Up   Sign Up FREE  

Get expert survey help

Get expert survey help

Best practices for planning expert surveys

Planning makes writing your survey easy.

Download eGuide

How many responses do you need?

Use our sample size calculator to find out!

Calculate now

Analyze survey data like a pro

Learn to slice and dice data using the Analyze tool.

Download eGuide