Every data project requires the findings to be presented in a legible data analysis report. For some, this is a challenging exercise.
After all, the principle goal of a technical report is to clearly communicate information. However, if the information was easily comprehensible, it is unlikely that it would require extensive investigation to discover. Furthermore, many people can experience anxiety about the reliability of their reporting, especially in light of the axiom “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Under these conditions, it is easy to understand why even some of the most experienced business professionals find reporting intimidating. However, reporting is like any other skill – practice makes perfect. Below, we discuss five strategies that can improve reporting skills.
1. Live by example
There is a wealth of knowledge about technical writing at every professional’s fingertips. For instance, seek out examples online and download them. Look over these sample reports with a critical eye: consider who the audience is; what message they are trying to communicate; and which reports are the most successful ones. Armed with this information, business people can strive to write better reports in the future.
2. Take criticism
No one is perfect. Therefore, it is important to learn to accept criticism. Although the person critiquing the report might not be familiar with technical processes, if they are the client or manager, it is important to take their feedback on board. Furthermore, it is important to formulate constructive criticism of your own, taking into account a writer’s reasoning as to structure and format.
3. Know the content
Often, the best approach to a data analysis report is to begin with the most comprehensive information. For example, the most effective reports begin by describing the modeling, analysis, and graphing the author was directly involved in. This is because this information is likely to be the most accurate and detailed. The author will have specific knowledge of the data sources, the obstacles found during analysis, the treatment of outliers, and how superfluous results were handled.
4. Know your audience
When constructing a data analysis report, it is important to understand its purpose. For instance, some readers will use the intelligence to formulate strategy; others will learn new things; and some will seek to critique the information. Either way, the author should consider how the audience is likely to approach the report. In turn, they should tailor the report to the relevant audience by using the correct tone and establishing common ground.
5. Develop a flexible outline
When organizing complex information, it is crucial to develop a strong outline. However, it is important not to be a slave to a structure. As new information emerges through the writing process, it is important to place it in a natural way. Furthermore, when devising an outline, try to balance the sections. This makes the content more digestible for the reader, which enables them to absorb the information with greater ease. In addition, a helpful strategy is to weight subsections by their importance. This will help the reader to identify which information is significant and which is ancillary.
The fine art of a data analysis report
Unless the author has taken a professional development course in technical writing or done a substantial amount of reading, it is likely they have much to learn about the fine art of advanced reporting. The above tips provide a foundation for authoring a clear data analysis report, which delivers information in a well-structured, efficient manner. Finally, an important point is to never be afraid to ask for help – with the assistance of an expert, every business person can work towards producing high-end, comprehensive reports.