It's important to write a data report that will effectively communicate the subject matter to busy executives who only have a few minutes to go through your report. One of the key things to include is a visual representation of the most important data, such as charts and graphs. You should also keep the language concise and free of jargon.
Overview of Writing a Good Analytical Report
The first step is to outline the report according to whatever guidelines you need to follow. Every company typically has its own format for writing reports, and you’re bound to follow the format of yours. This outline will basically give you a roadmap to follow as you write the report and hopefully help you deal with any writer’s block that may arise later down the line. You should craft your report to explain and analyze all the data and the conclusions reached in an easy-to-read format. If your report is lengthy, you may also need to include a table of contents.
Consider the Visual Aspect
Data, of itself, can be abstract and difficult to put into context. So, you should be generous in your use of charts, graphs and tables to illustrate the results of your analysis. Where necessary, you can include references in the text to explain vital graphics. Your reader should be able to know what is most important about each graphic, and so you should highlight it, instead of just describing what can already be seen. Also, make sure your text references are close to the graphics they reference, so your readers can make the connection between the two.
Make a Rough Draft
Once you’re done with an outline, create a rough draft that includes the most important information, structured according to the outline. The technical details aren’t important now; they can be added later. The idea is to include the most important information first so the reader will be able to find it easily when they receive your report. Remember that many of your readers are busy. Also, remember to be careful with your use of jargon, avoiding it wherever possible.
The Executive Summary and Abstract
Although they appear at the beginning of your report, the executive summary and abstract are the final aspects you'll write. Both sections represent a summary of the report, showing the important conclusions of the report. That's why you write them last.
The executive summary holds its own significance in a data analysis report. The reason it’s called an executive summary is that it’s a summary for the executives of the company. These are presumably busy people who don’t have time to read through the entire report, going over all the finer details. You should, therefore, try, as much as possible, to capture the salient points of the report in the executive summary, such as the objective, the major data points and the conclusion. Be as concise as possible and only include the most important points. If the executives can immediately grasp what the report is about, just by reading the executive summary, then you’ve done your job.
Revise your data analysis as many times as you need to, making sure to organize the information in a logically coherent manner. Avoid bulky, boring paragraphs and use white space to make the report aesthetically appealing. Present tabulated information as charts. And, finally, avoid the use of passive voice throughout.
- Prefer active voice, which emphasizes the subject performing the action, over passive voice, when writing your report. Active voice is more concise and conveys information more clearly, with fewer words.
- Ask yourself if a table could be more effectively presented as a chart, which has more visual appeal.