What is a Qualitative Survey? Meaning and Examples

Learn the definition of qualitative survey and examples of this research.

Whether your business is preparing to launch a new product or you’re taking steps to improve your company’s overall customer experience, collecting and interpreting qualitative data can be a necessary yet challenging endeavor. Businesses often rely on an in-depth qualitative survey to collect information that describes a consumer’s characteristics, patterns, and qualities. This data is then used to back up business decisions, helping brands recognize patterns and understand where they need to make changes and improvements.

Unlike quantitative research, which involves numbers and ratings that are easier to analyze, qualitative research is more nuanced. Instead of numbers that you can take at face value, qualitative data is more of a narrative that requires the researcher to make connections and inferences. So, how do businesses collect and analyze qualitative data? Here’s an introduction to qualitative survey methods, as well as some example questions to help you conduct this research on your own.

What is qualitative survey research?

Qualitative surveys are used to cultivate data that illustrates how people experience the world or, in the business world, how consumers experience products, services, and brands. Companies use qualitative surveys to explain or understand consumers’ behavior, characteristics, and motivations of people in a target group. The qualitative data collected can be used to inform businesses about what their audience thinks about new ideas for products or services. This content-rich data provides key insights into the feelings and meaning behind the behavior of your target audience.

In short, the goal of a qualitative survey is to uncover what people think and why they think that way. It’s based on a variety of social science disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and even anthropology.

Qualitative surveys and the research they support create opportunities for in-depth questioning of respondents based on their responses, as the interviewer tries to understand the subject’s feelings and motivations. For businesses, this data is invaluable—it helps you understand how your target audience makes decisions, so you can get to know your customers on their level.

There are several unique examples of qualitative research methods, including direct observation, case studies, ethnographic research, and more. When businesses conduct qualitative research, though, they typically do so using two main modes of data collection: interviews and surveys.


One of the best ways to collect high-quality qualitative data is through a direct interview. A one-on-one interview—whether in person, over the phone, or over a video call—is a personal, conversational method that helps the interviewer garner in-depth details from the respondent.

Focus groups are another common type of interview. They usually include a limited number of respondents, and an advantage of this method is that the interviewer can hear customer feedback in their own words and voices, since the group setting often helps individual respondents feel more empowered. It’s a great way to discover ideas and issues that the interviewer may not have even considered but are still important to the group.

When it comes to direct interviews, the most important consideration is asking the right questions. Researchers should come to the interview prepared with follow-up questions to get the most valuable information from the respondent.


A qualitative survey is a helpful tool for researchers looking to get honest qualitative data from their target audience. A survey that asks the right questions is an excellent way to get insightful answers quickly.

While qualitative surveys don’t give researchers as much real-time feedback as an in-person interview would, they do give the interviewer more of a chance to encourage responses that are more elaborate and provide more perspective. It’s important to ask open-ended questions that encourage respondents to explain or describe their thoughts and feelings in great detail.

Since you can create a standardized survey and ask many of the same questions as you would in a one-on-one interview, a qualitative survey is often a faster way to cultivate high-quality qualitative data. Qualitative survey research is a great method if you want to enlarge your sample size and collect qualitative data at scale.

Examples of qualitative survey questions

Qualitative research requires both the researcher and respondents to go in-depth. By asking the right questions, a surveyor can cultivate responses that provide a clear picture of a customer’s attitudes, patterns, perceptions, and more.

Researchers should ask specific, as opposed to generic, questions with a clear purpose. As mentioned above, be prepared with some sub-questions, to encourage the respondent to provide an in-depth, meaningful answer.

Here are some examples of qualitative survey questions that can elicit useful responses:

  • Why did you/will you buy this product?
  • What is your overall perception of this product/brand?
  • How does this product/brand make you feel?
  • What sets this product/brand apart from its competitors?
  • How does this product solve your particular needs?
  • What needs do you have that this product/brand isn’t solving?

As for sub-questions, make sure to ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” By paying close attention to your respondent’s initial response to each question, you can ask leading questions that help you narrow your focus. You might find that as you go through the survey process, you may need to refine your questions to get the type of in-depth responses you’re looking for.

Conduct a meaningful qualitative survey with Voiceform

A useful qualitative survey relies on high-quality data, and the way you collect that data matters. Some members of your target audience may be reluctant to share their thoughts and feelings in person or even through written responses, and that’s where Voiceform comes in.

Voiceform helps you collect data and customer feedback in a way that’s easy on both you and your customer. Using innovative solutions to gather and transcribe multimedia feedback, it’s easy to cultivate high-quality data that reflects true customer sentiment, so you can analyze and use it as you see fit. The platform even includes useful quantitative and qualitative analysis tools, making it easy for you to monitor public perception of your products or your brand as a whole.

Ready to make the most of your next qualitative survey? Discover all the benefits of Voiceform by signing up or booking a free demo today.

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