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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

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19 thoughts on “New! Categorize Your Open-Ended Text Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    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.


    1. Anne R says:

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

  2. Excellent work buddy, keep that up

    1. Bill says:

      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.

  3. Aaron says:

    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?

    1. Bennett P says:

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

  4. Elena says:

    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

    1. Hanna J says:

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

  5. Mike Sotiriadis says:

    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.

    1. Kayte K says:

      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!

      1. Mike Sotiriadis says:

        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.

        1. Kayte K says:

          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.

  6. Philip says:

    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


    1. Kayte K says:

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

  7. SLB says:

    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?

    1. kaytek says:

      Hello there! Here’s how you can export individual responses:

  8. Mandy Caunt says:

    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?

    1. kaytek says:

      Hi Mandy, on a Paid plan you can download comments into Excel, PDF or CSV. Here’s how:

      Additional export options for downloading graphs:

      Hope this helps,

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