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Referencing data in report writing

Once you have completed your surveys and collected responses, it’s time to analyse your results and compile the key findings into a report.

A good report should address the objectives of your evaluation plan, present the data clearly and be written in a way that will convey the results without overwhelming or boring the reader.

Here are some tips to help you write effective reports:

1. Identify the purpose
Before you start writing or collating content, clarify what question/s your report aims to answer. Consider what it was that your evaluations were created to answer in the first place. Perhaps you’d like to determine the social impact of a particular event or understand what programming strategies have been most successful in the past year. By pinpointing the purpose/s of your report, it will help you stay on track while crafting your content.

2. Draft the skeleton structure
Take a look at the relevant data and create a contents page that arranges it all in a logical order. Think about all of the evaluation information you have on hand and how to present it in a coherent way.

3. Use simple language
Your writing should be concise and engaging, avoiding lengthy and unnecessary descriptions. When it’s time to get into the details, bold important numbers, keywords and definitions within the copy so that it’s easy for the reader to get a snapshot view of your findings. Use charts and infographics to present information where you can. Be sure to keep any captions brief.

4. Conclusions and key findings
It’s a good idea to compile your headline stats into a list of Key Findings and highlight these at the beginning of your document. People are busy, and we’re all inundated with info – so make it as easy as possible for the skim-readers to see all of the great things that you/your organisation have been doing. If relevant, your conclusion should highlight any successes, recommendations and opportunities to improve.

5. Proofread
Once you are confident that you’ve nailed Steps 1 to 4 and completed a first draft, it’s time to proofread. Consider this an opportunity to cut text that’s repetitive or unnecessary. It can help to read it out loud, or get a second opinion from a colleague. Repeat Step 5 until you’re confident that you’re happy with the end result.

In summary
To put it into one sentence: Define your purpose; organise your ideas for clarity; be concise; conclude with key findings; edit and proof read, and; proof again.

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