If you are either in university or already got a job, as a data analyst you will eventually be asked to write a report about some of your findings. And, it might feel scary considering that you probably are much better with numbers than words.
The good news is that there are many resources out there that can help you to write a compelling data analysis report, from free tools for graph and chart creation to templates. But, before you get it started you should be aware of the tips below:
Understand That People Don't Understand
It might feel very frustrating, but you should be prepared to the fact that your audience might not understand what you are trying to present. Translating numbers into words is something very hard because it might require a technical knowledge way beyond common sense. So accept it as a fact and don’t take criticism personally.
Find out the Goal of Your Report
You need to have clear what the goal of your report is considering that it might differ depending on your audience. Are they interested in your results only? Or do they want to be able to replicate what you did so a step-by-step guide could be useful? The answer to this question will help you to decide which elements you should highlight on your report.
Decide Which Type of Introduction You Will Write
The first part of your report (and probably the last one that you will write) is your introduction. It can be created in the form of an Executive Summary, an Overview, or an Abstract. The first one is supposed to be short and focused only on what a decision-maker wants to know. The second one is more general, and the third one is prepared for the eyes of other data analysts only.
Be Aware of the Correct Format
One thing that you probably want to run by whoever asked you for a report is which format they are expecting you to deliver. Just look at some templates, and you will see that there are many ways that a data analysis can be constructed and each one of them has different requirements. Just to name a few, it can be an executive brief, a letter report, a journal article, or a white paper, and none of them is born equal.
Create Your Outline
Now that you know what is the correct format that you should follow, it is time for you to create the outline of your report. Write down each section that you should create, name the with working titles (no need to be the final ones) and explain in a few words which type of content will go there. It will help you to understand the volume and the complexity of your work, and stop you from mentioning unnecessary topics.
Consider Your Deadline
You are aware of how much work will be required to get your report done, so then check how fast you will need to be in order to meet your deadline. Remember that it is not just a question of writing it. You will need to edit, proofread and deliver it as well. You will also need to create visual resources to make your data clearer and easier to understand. So take everything into consideration when you decide how much time per day you will save for this task.
Start by Writing It Right Away
Don’t expect that it will be perfect on the first draft. When you start writing your report, this is all that you should do: write your report. Put into words everything that you know about your data without being concerned of grammar, spelling, or style. This is one of the most famous writing tips against the famous writer’s block and to make sure that everything that is important will be mentioned in your report.
Leave It for a While
Before going to the next step, you should leave your report for a while and do something else. If you just keep working on it hour after hour, the chances are that you will stop seeing what needs to be improved. So take a break at this stage and get back to it a few days later.
Edit Your Report
With fresh eyes, start editing your report. Remember that you aren’t writing it for yourself but to a particular target audience. And they should be able to understand exactly what you are trying to say without consulting Google or a dictionary. So think if there is anything that could be said better, or if you forgot to add any piece of information that your audience might find relevant.
Add Some Valuable Visual Resources
There is no data analysis report without visual resources so make sure to include yours. But you should check if all those tables, graphs, and charts that you want to add really are relevant to your audience. Depending on how you create them, they might just make them more confused or overwhelmed. So feel free to play with colors and formats (if the style of your report and audience permits it) in order to make your visual resources more effective.
Proofread Your Report
Now is time to check for grammar and spelling mistakes that might have passed unnoticed. Again, you should only do it after a few days away from your report, or you are better off asking or paying someone else to check it for you. After so much time working on the same pages, you will probably overlook misplaced commas and so.
Final Piece of Advice: Ask Someone to Read It
When you feel that your report is ready, ask someone to read it for you. The best will be if this person matches your target audience, but it can be anyone else. This is the best way to identify anything that went missing or needs to be adjusted/improved. And it will guarantee that you will hear congratulations after you deliver your report.