02 Dec 4 Chart Tips to Turn Around Your Report Quickly
We’ve all been there – your client needs the report by noon tomorrow, and though you may have the meat and potatoes, you scratch your head at the prospect of presenting all that data in a visual way. In anticipation that you will communicate your study’s results in a way that is attractive and straight to the point (but in a time restraint), time management can be problematic. Don’t fret, a few simple chart tips can save some of that precious time.
Many researchers cling to the standard bar graphs, and when creating a report with a fast turnaround, disregard data visualisation in lieu of time management. When under pressure, these few, simple practices can help you create a quick and clean visual that your client can truly understand.
#1. Plan ahead – When inserting a graph or chart in your report, it is important to decide what information you wish to display. If you’re skipping lunch to finish said document, then chances are you do not have extra time to fiddle with changes in the display of data for each chart. Each time you re-make a format decision, you could run into time management issues. Simply formulating a plan allows you to save time in the long run. Choosing a simple chart will allow for more time to control the quality before the report lands in your client’s hands – and often simpler is better anyway.
#2. Consider your target audience– Even with a formulated plan, it’s important to think about the purpose of charting to begin with. A great chart must achieve its purpose – it must be meaningful to the beholder. As well, keep in mind as to who is all looking at the report. Different levels in the organization require different levels of detail. Often a chart geared toward an executive needs less detail than a manager responsible for that particular product line.
#3. A graph isn’t always the answer– I know, contradiction much? Not everyone reads charts every day. At times, using a chart can cloud the result instead of giving it clarity. By simply contrasting white space within your report, tables or textboxes can be just as visually impactful as charts. Highlighting differences with colour, especially when dealing with qualitative or open-ended responses, can also help to effectively convey a message without using a chart.
#4. Perform a clarity test – Sometimes when working too close to a document, one needs a fresh set of eyes to graze over the information. Before pushing the report out, have a co-worker or peer review the visual data information without any context. If they can read the data without needing extensive background information, then you have succeeded in representing the data in a way it can stand alone.
Studies with a smorgasbord of charts can prove puzzling, and may be curtly disregarded by a client short on time. Your clients expect that the report findings will provide clear answers to their objectives, and most importantly, illustrate the story behind the data.
And at the end of the day the researcher is the illustrator, whereas the data remains the ink to craft the story. Have a plan, know your audience, provide clarity and generalize data in a way it can be read across the board.
Related post: 6 Creative Ways to Present Your Market Research Data