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
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
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
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.
. Learn what other people think about
technical writing. Visit websites on “
,” 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.
. 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
. Search the internet for examples of data analysis reports (Hint:adding
to the search might help). Critique them.
Who’s the audience
What’s the message
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?