In a modern consumer-led culture, obtaining and responding to qualitative feedback (i.e. often free-text comments/written feedback) is embedded in the professional practice of many walks of life. Surveys are used, for example, in staff development, professional training, product design and testing, and in various forms of service provision across the public and private sector.

Surveys and questionnaires often produce a combination of quantitative and qualitative forms of data. Quantitative forms, such as rating scales (e.g. likert scale responses), multiple choice questions and rank order questions can be numerated (i.e. quantified) with ease, the analysis of which can be conducted in a systematic and often automated way. By contrast, more qualitative questions, which prompt open ended, free-text comment responses, or, in the context of the tourism and heritage sector, written feedback from exhibitions, events and/or historical sites on social media channels or websites pose a more difficult challenge for the analyst. Tackling written, text-based feedback often requires a more labour-intensive and manual approach to analysis. Compounding this challenge is where feedback is presented in both English and Welsh, as is often the case in Wales, with Wales representing the largest bilingual community in the UK. The successful analysis of bilingual data relies on the workforce having the appropriate linguistic expertise to process it.

While a range of sophisticated digital tools for the analysis of text-based data are available, particularly for researchers working in academia, in marketing and public relations contexts etc., many of the digital resources used are not necessarily affordable, quick and easy to use, and/or accessible to non-expert users. Specifically, these tools currently do not fully support the task of systematically processing free-text responses in Welsh.

This project aims to bridge this gap by building the novel ‘FreeTxt/TestunRhydd’ toolkit which is designed to support the analysis and visualisation of multiple forms of open-ended, free-text data in both English and Welsh. FreeTxt/TestunRhydd will draw on existing open-source bilingual corpus-based utilities and methodologies, repackaging these and taking them in a new direction so that they are relevant to new audiences/user-groups. We will work closely with project partners to co-design, co-construct and test FreeTxt/TestunRhydd to ensure that the resource is fit-for-purpose and fairly and consistently meets the needs of Welsh and English-language responses.

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Key features of FreeTxt/TestunRhydd

Existing tools that we will draw on include those developed as part of the CorCenCC project (Corpws Cenedlaethol Cymraeg Cyfoes – The National Corpus of Contemporary Welsh). This includes CorCenCC’s semantic (i.e. meaning based categorisations of individual words and phrases) and part of speech (POS – i.e. grammar-based categorisations of individual words and phrases – e.g. nouns, verbs) taggers and tagsets for Welsh language, and corpus functionalities for the querying of language, amongst others. These tools will be integrated into a user-friendly, online interface that users can paste/upload their texts into, to search for patterns of meaning that emerge in survey responses and feedback; to see which words are most often used in relation to a given theme, place, topic; to understand what visitors particularly enjoyed about a service or attraction, and what they think could be improved.

The final version of the tool will be made freely-available and will be adaptable in terms of who can use it and when. It will contain generic analysis features that enable it to be used by any public and/or professional company and institution dealing with varying datasets of qualitative survey data and will be of relevance to academic researchers analysing and visualising survey data. The accessibility and usability of this tool will help provide a direct route to potential impact.

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FreeTxt logo design by Katie Rayson