This is the third of our 3 quick start articles on data analysis, following
Tips for creating a report
After you've prepared your survey for effective analysis and analysed your responses, it’s now time to report back to respondents and stakeholders. For more on how to do this, look at the below and read our blog about producing a great report.
Who is your audience?
Two of the most important questions to ask yourself when you're preparing a report on your data are:
1. Who will be reading the report?
2. What will the information be used for?
If you are creating two reports – one for an external audience and one for an internal group – you will probably want to give them slightly different content and tailor the presentation accordingly.
- Members of the public may prefer a short, visual report that summarises key findings. They may also expect some information in the report about what the next steps for your organisation will be.
- The policy team in your organisation, who will potentially be acting on the results of your engagement activity, will probably want to see much more detail and some interpretation that builds on basic findings, and will be less concerned about presentation
- Senior members of your organisation will probably want to see a short summary of high-level findings, as you might produce for the public - but may prefer it to be presented in a simple and informative way, rather than with infographics and other visuals.
These are, of course, not hard and fast rules - you know your audience much better than we do!
There’s always a temptation to stick to traditional formats to present a report of your data. But could an alternative method of reporting back be more engaging? If your activity gathered a lot of qualitative data, there is potential to be creative in terms of conveying the story that the data tells.
You could consider producing a video of key outcomes or a presentation, rather than a written report. Alternatively a live discussion, debate or web-based report could be useful. Choose the best method of presentation for your audience.
Be careful of context
When you are reporting, it’s important to be aware of the context of the data you have gathered. A common complaint when politicians, retailers and the media misuse statistics is that they report statistical findings stripped of their context.
- A survey (carried out by a shampoo manufacturer) asks 1000 mothers in the UK about their level of satisfaction with a children’s shampoo. They ask "What difference has using our product made to your child’s hair?", with the response options "It has improved a lot", "It has improved somewhat", or "No change". 600 of the women reply, and of those, 450 respond with one of the first two options. This leads to the company branding their product with:
"Shampoo X: recommended by 75% of British mums!"
There is some truth in this statement - but it doesn't tell the whole story of the data that has been gathered.
Make sure you are painting an accurate picture
In your report you should consider:
Make sure you are clear when using percentages that you refer to "X% of respondents" rather than "% of members of the public". If your sample is particularly small (eg. out of a target audience of 5000 people, only 50 answer your question), that should be noted when you are reporting back. Instead, use numbers rather than percentages when you report your findings. For example, if you received 25 questionnaires back, say that ‘20 students felt that...’ rather than ‘80% of students felt that...’
If you're running a survey on a planning issue that affects a whole district but you only get responses from a few streets, you may have a lot of responses, but they are not representative. You should try to avoid this happening when you design and promote your survey - but if it does, you should be clear about it in your reporting.
Remember that in the case of optional questions - or required questions with a 'no comment' option - if a respondent fails to answer this doesn't void their response. When a question gives the option of "Yes", "No", or "Don't know", the "Don't know"s are just as important to work into your analysis.
Built-in features for publishing
If you want to report on the results of your activity to the public, you can use Citizen Space’s response publishing feature. This feature is available on request, so let us know if you’d like to use it.
Response publishing allows you to make responses visible to other users, so it’s not entirely accurate to call it analysis – but if you simply want to make the data you've gathered available to the public, it's a good way of doing that. You'll need to have a consent question in your survey asking if respondents mind having their data published. You’ll also be able to moderate responses before they are published, and so remove any inappropriate content in qualitative responses.
Publish Results and We Asked, You Said, We did
Citizen Space has a built-in feature to publish results. This is a convenient way of posting the results of the activity, and any relevant analysis, on your survey’s Overview page. This article explains how to do it – you can enter text/images, embed links and upload files, which could include, for example, a pdf showing some analysis.
‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ is another way of doing this. It gives you a template that focuses on the three steps in the cycle of engagement: the question, the public response, and the action taken as a result.
PDF Summary report
Citizen Space can also automatically generate a PDF summary report for you at any point during an activity. This report contains only quantitative answers; no responses to qualitative questions except for how many responses were received for the question will be included. However, it can be a useful resource for sharing around your organisation.
How to present your findings
Make information easy to read
There are a lot of ways to visualise your data, and it can make things a lot more interesting than looking at rows of text and numbers.
Excel can turn a chart of values into a bar chart, line graph or pie chart. You should remember, however, to always name your source on a graphic - and also, if possible, make the raw data available to your reader by linking to your original Excel/Word file.
No matter which type of report you use, always remember that information can be more powerfully displayed in a graphic format verses a text or tabular representation. Often, trends and patterns are more obvious and recommendations more effective when presented visually. Ideally, when making a comparison of one or more groups of respondents, it is best to show a chart of each group's responses side-by-side. This side-by-side comparison allows your audience to quickly see the differences you are highlighting and can lead to more support for your conclusions.
When you are putting data in tables, make sure they are simple and easy to read.
If you only have a small number of responses, it may not be worth spending a lot of time trying to convert this data into exciting visualisations - it may be better to just refer to the number of responses.
Labelling charts clearly, including counts of responses, the base number and the number of missing responses will help ensure the information is understandable. Frequency tables can be effective at displaying information in this way. These tables show the possible responses, the total number of respondents for each part, and the percentages of respondents who selected each answer.
Give your report a clear structure
Choose how to break your report down. Producing a report on a per-question basis can be a simple way of presenting all of the information.
Present the key findings and then make a clear overall recommendation. You might want to consider the following in your report:
- Make recommendations and include key info - perhaps producing some key best-practice standards in your organisation.
- Put a summary of what the report says on the front page or equivalent.
- Use the main themes as sub-headings.
- Finish with conclusions, and restate your recommendations.
- Include a methods section. Did you just use an online survey or were focus groups also conducted? It’s also worth mentioning any events or engagement exercises here. Why were these methods used in this context?
- Appendices - you can include supporting data and references here.