Unsolicited Written Comments: An Untapped Data Source

Sally L. Maliski

Mark S. Litwin

prostate cancer, qualitative data analysis
ONF 2007, 34(1), 142-147. DOI: 10.1188/07.ONF.142-147

Purpose/Objectives: To explore methods for analysis of unsolicited comments written on forced-choice surveys related to health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among men treated for prostate cancer.

Data Sources: Unsolicited comments written on surveys administered as part of a study investigating HRQOL for men receiving surgery, external beam radiation therapy, or brachytherapy for prostate cancer were abstracted from the parent study database at baseline (pretreatment) and 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 18, and 24 months after treatment.

Data Synthesis: Researchers read through all of the comments for each timepoint. They coded each comment for the main idea expressed by each statement in each written comment. They grouped codes into categories and counted the number of participants writing comments in each category at each timepoint. They were displayed graphically. Of 375 subjects completing surveys, 87% wrote unsolicited comments on at least one of the surveys. Thirty-four codes were derived from 3,175 comments. Grouping of the codes resulted in eight categories.

Conclusions: Analyzing unsolicited comments proved to be feasible and useful in revealing additional information about respondent concerns.

Implications for Nursing: This type of analysis has value in its ability to reveal patterns in previously unused data that then can be used to explain or deepen survey findings or suggest avenues for more in-depth qualitative or quantitative nursing investigation.

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