Stage 3. Categorise eligible survey submissions

After the survey period is over and out-of-scope submissions have been identified and removed, work will begin to categorise people’s submissions, grouping the duplicates/similar questions and creating summary, or ‘indicative’, questions.

The aim is to retain the sense of what the respondent meant, but in the form of a researchable question. These researchable questions will be checked against the evidence base, and those that are ‘unanswered’ will go forward for prioritisation.

Allocating submissions into categories is a helpful way to organise data, in part to reveal instances of duplication. Essentially it is a qualitative, thematic analysis of the survey data, although it will not affect the later prioritisation. Developing a system of categorisation can help PSPs to make their data more manageable by reducing the data into smaller, more manageable sections.

It is important that a good version control system is used when sending question lists to Steering Group members to avoid confusion.

Categories may be developed iteratively as the data is analysed. Or, the Steering Group may have suggestions or access to an existing set of categories or taxonomy. These might include ‘topics’ used by Cochrane Systematic Review Groups or the UK Clinical Research Collaboration Health Research Classification System.

Some categories of treatment which may not be found in existing taxonomies, including diet, vitamins, complementary therapies and lifestyle, may need to be adapted and added to as the data is entered. It may be useful to consider stage of illness or age at diagnosis as additional methods of data organisation.

This categorisation process may identify further ineligible submissions, for example, topics better suited to social research, which can also be removed. As above, the person/people managing this stage of the process should keep a record of these and refer them back to the Steering Group for consideration.