Using data gathered with Forms

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What happens to data once a Form is filled in?

This is part two of our lesson on Google Forms. It follows on from the previous topic, Gathering data with Google Forms. It is highly recommended that you work through that topic before starting this one.

Filling in a Form creates live data which can be used in multiple ways. You can wait until a survey is finished, for example, and then present the results as part of a story, or you can allow readers to see live data which is updated every time a form is filled in.

In this lesson, you will learn:

  • How to access data gathered with forms
  • How to start analysing that data
  • How to present data gathered with forms

What do readers see after submission?

Without any extra work on your behalf, Google Forms can generate data visualisations based on responses received so far.

Forms can produce quick visualisations that appear after a Form has been completed.

If you click on the settings icon (the gear) in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and go to the General tab, you will see a checkbox marked See summary charts and text responses.

If you tick this box, readers will see a series of charts showing all the data gathered so far. While this is engaging for readers, be careful not to reveal personal information of other respondents in any charts (for example, email addresses). Test your form before publicising it using the Preview icon (the eye) and submit a dummy form to see what information pops up after completing a Form.

Customising live feedback for readers.

Analysing in Google Sheets

You can access all the data gathered as a spreadsheet by clicking the Sheets icon in the Responses pane. This will give you an option to copy data into an existing or new spreadsheet, which will appear in your Google Drive.

While you can begin analysing this data straight away, and new answers will populate the Sheet automatically, it’s strongly recommended that you make a copy and work on that rather than making changes to the original spreadsheet. This will ensure that if you make a mistake you can go back to the original data at any time. You can copy the data using the File>Make a copy menu option, or by clicking on the down arrow next to the Form responses 1 tab, and selecting Copy to. You can copy the data to a new sheet tab or a new spreadsheet.

Working in Sheets

One major challenge when creating surveys is that often the same person will (knowingly or unknowingly) submit multiple answers and skew your results. You can use the Sheets view to resort the data by email address, for example, and quickly delete repeats.

Once you’ve done that, you can generate new interactive charts and visualisations using Sheets Insert function, and publish them to the web. Or you can use this Sheet as part of a Fusion Table to generate more complex visualisations, for example.

In our water collection example, we want to get an idea of water use per household per province. We can do this by first creating a Pivot Table based on our (our full Pivot Table tutorial is currently under construction).

In this image below, we’ve used a Pivot Table to count the number of responses to each option in the household usage question, and grouped them by province. The chart created (a 100% stacked bar chart) tells a clear story of which provinces use the most water proportionately.

A chart created using a Pivot Table, that shows answers proportionally by region.

Be wary of your conclusions

Remember that the data you’ve collected has limitations, however. Generally speaking, answers will be from a “self selecting” group of readers, depending on their motivations for completing your survey. That means you should be careful about making generalised statements based on your results.

It’s fine to say “50% of households who completed our survey say they use less than 15Kl of water a month. It’s wrong, however, to make assumptions about the whole population, for example by saying “50% of households in South Africa use less than 15Kl of water a month”.

In our example, only 41 readers have so far completed the survey so far. We’ll need a lot more responses before we can begin to draw conclusions.

Have you created a great data-driven story using Google Forms? Share your work with us over in the course discussion groups.