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HOW TO WRITE DATA ANALYSIS REPORTSIN SIX EASY LESSONS

HOW TO WRITE DATA ANALYSIS REPORTSIN SIX EASY LESSONS

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Published by terrabyte
In every data analysis, putting the analysis and the results into a
comprehensible report is the final, and for some, the biggest hurdle. The
technical information in a data analysis report is difficult to understand because it is complicated
and not readily known to most readers. Add math anxiety and the all too prevalent
notion that anything can be proven with statistics and you can
understand why reporting on a data analysis is a challenge.
In every data analysis, putting the analysis and the results into a
comprehensible report is the final, and for some, the biggest hurdle. The
technical information in a data analysis report is difficult to understand because it is complicated
and not readily known to most readers. Add math anxiety and the all too prevalent
notion that anything can be proven with statistics and you can
understand why reporting on a data analysis is a challenge.

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Published by: terrabyte on Sep 18, 2013
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H
OW TO
W
RITE
D
 ATA
 A
NALYSIS
R
EPORTS
 
IN
S
IX
E
 ASY
L
ESSONS
 
In every data analysis, putting the analysis and the results into acomprehensible report is the final, and for some, the biggest hurdle. Thegoal of a technical report is to communicate information. However, thetechnical information is difficult to understand because it is complicatedand not readily known. Add math anxiety and the all too prevalentnotion that anything can be proven with statistics and you canunderstand why reporting on a data analysis is a challenge.
The ability to write effective reports on a data analysis shouldn’t beassumed. It’s not the same as writing a report for a class project
that only
the instructor will read. It’s not uncommon for data analysts to receive
little or no training in this style of technical writing. Some data analystshave never done it, and they fear the process. Some haven
’t
done it much, and they think everyreport is pretty much the same. Some learned under different conditions, like writing companynewsletters, and figure they know everything there is to know about it. And worst of all, somehave done it without guidance and have
developed bad habits, but don’t know it.
 
It’s a pretty safe bet that if you haven’t taken college classes or professional dev
elopment
courses, haven’t been mentored on the job, and haven’t done some independent reading, you
have a bit to learn about writing technical reports. Report writing is like any other skill, you get better by learning more about the process and by practicing. Here are four things you can try toimprove your skills.
Educate yourself 
. Learn what other people think about
technical writing. Visit websites on “
statistical analysisreports
” and
 
technical writing
,” there are millions of 
them. Take online or local classes. Read books andmanuals. Join Internet groups, such as through Yahoo,Google, or LinkedIn. Immerse yourself in the topic asyou did when you were in school.
Understand criticis
. Over the course of your career,
you’ll give and receive
a lot of criticism on technicalreports. Not all criticism is created equal. First, consider the source. Some critics have never written a report on adata analysis and some have never even analyzed data. Still, if the critic is the one payingthe bills you have to deal with it. For your part, you should learn how to provide
criticism.Unless a report you are reviewing is a complete mess, respect the
report writer’s discret
ion for structure and format. Focus on content.Be nice.
Download examples 
. Search the internet for examples of data analysis reports (Hint:adding
 pdf 
and
download 
to the search might help). Critique them.
Who’s the audience
?
What’s the message
? What
s good and bad about each report? Which reports do youthink are good examples? What do they do that you might want to do yourself in thefuture?
 
 
Find what’s right f 
or yo
. When you search the Internet for advice on technical writing
or take a few classes from knowledgeable instructors, you’ll hear some different
opinions. Everyone will talk about audience and content but most will have more limitedviews of report organization, writing style, and how you work at writing. Ignore what the
experts tell you to do if it doesn’t feel right.
Just be sure that the path you eventuallychoose works for you and the audiences who will read your reports.
If you’ve done all that, it’s just a matter of practice. You’ll learn something from each report you
write. If you are new to the process of reporting on a data analysis, consider these six easylessons:Lesson 1
 — 
Know your contentLesson 2
 — 
Know your audienceLesson 3
 — 
Know your routeLesson 4
 — 
Get their attentionLesson 5
 — 
Get it doneLesson 6
 — 
Get acceptance.
L
ESSON
1
K
NOW YOUR
C
ONTENT
 
Start with what you know best. In writing a data analysis report, what you know best would bethe statistics, graphing,and modelingyou did. You should be able to describe how you characterizedthe population, how you generated the dataor the sources that provided them, what  problemsyou found in the data during your exploratory analysis, how you scrubbed thedata,what you did to treat outliers, what transformations you applied, what you did about dropouts and replicates,and what you did with violations of assumptions and non-significant results. 
From that, you’ll need to determine what’s important
,and then,
what’s important to the reader. Unless you’re
writing the report to your Professor in college or your  peers in a group of professional data analysts, you can be pretty sure that no one will want tohear about all the issuesyou had to deal with, the techniques you used,or  how hard you worked  on the analysis. No one will care if your results came from Excel or an R program you wrote. 
They’ll just
want to hear your conclusions. So, w
hat’s the message
you want to deliver?
That’sthe most important thing you’ll have to keep in mind
while writing.Once you work out your message, write an overview to the report
so you’ll know where you’re
going. It will help you stay on track. Your summary might take one of three forms:
Executive Summar
.
Aimed at decision makers and people with not enough time or  patience to read more than 400 words. Limit your summary to less than one-page, do notuse any  jargon,and provide only the result the decision maker needs to know to take an appropriate action (i.e., the message you want to convey).
 
 
Overview 
. Aimed at most people, whether they would read the report or not. An overviewis an abridged version of what is in the report, with a focus on the message you want toconvey. The overview
shouldn’t be more than a few pages.
Abstract 
.
Aimed at peers and other people who understand data analysis. An abstractsummarizes in a page or less everything of importance that you did, from defining the population through assessing effect sizes. Abstracts are most often used in academicarticles.Once you understand who your audience is, you can rewrite the summary to catch the attentionof your readers.
L
ESSON
2
K
NOW YOUR
A
UDIENCE
 
Every self-help article about technical writing starts by telling readers to consider their audience.Even so, probably few report writers do.In a statistical analysis, you usually start by considering the characteristics of the population about which you want to makeinferences. Similarly, when you begin towrite a report on an analysis, you usuallystart by considering the characteristics of the audience with which you want tocommunicate. You have to think about the
who
,
what 
,
why
,
where
,
when
, and
how
of the key people who will be reading your report. Here are some things to consider about your audience.
W
HO
 
Audience is often defined by the role a reader plays relative to the report. Some readers will usethe report to make decisions. Some will learn new information from the report. Others willcritique the report in terms of what they already know. Thus, the audience for a statistical reportis often defined as decision makers, stakeholders, reviewers, or generally interested individuals.Some reports are read by only a single individual but most are read by many. All kinds of peoplemay read your report. As a consequent, there can be primary, secondary, and even more levels of audience participation. This is problematical; 
.So in defining your audience, focus first on the most important people to receive your message and second on thelargest group of people in the audience.
W
HAT
 
Once you define who you are targeting with your report, you should try to understand their characteristics. Perhaps the most important audience characteristic for a technical report writer isthe audie
nce’s understanding of both the
subject matter of the report and the statisticaltechniques being described. You may not be able to do much about their subject matter knowledge but you can adjust how you present statistical information. For example, audiences adata analyst might encounter include:

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