Writing an Effective
Data Analysis Report
What is a Data Analysis Report?
When data analysis is a key component of your job, communicating information to peers of both similar
and differing professional backgrounds is inexplicably important. Reporting your analyses professionally
and clearly can be a daunting task without experience. Here, we clarify the meaning of a data analysis
report and explain the appropriate steps to take when writing one.
The format of your data analysis report can be almost as important as its content. An appropriate layout
helps ensure that your report appears reputable. Be sure to examine reports from your workplace before
preparing your own. Different companies may have specific formatting guidelines they expect you to
follow. The following is a general outline for structure, which is widely accepted professionally.
Generally written last, although appearing first in report
Familiarize readers with the material in the report without going into details
Intended for those who do not have the time to read the report or lack the background to
fully understand the specifics
Primarily in paragraph form, but may use bullets to summarize main points
Provide a summary of the study and data
Explain what you are researching - and why
Outline your report
- Briefly describe your analysis and results
- If your report is long, consider a table of contents
Separate the body of your report into sections
- Identify the major questions your report addresses or different topics you have explored
- Use headers to title the different main ideas
- Order by importance
Within each section, create three areas:
- Methods - describe the steps you took to perform your analysis
- Analysis - focus on your results
- Conclusions - discuss findings and observations and raise questions
Be sure to include your most important graphs or tables in this section, so that they can be
viewed alongside your analysis
Reiterate and expand upon your overall results, similar to the way you did in the
Touch upon the more specific conclusions you reached in the body of your report
Raise new questions or discuss future work
Include additional graphs, charts, and tables
Describe the technicalities of your statistical procedures
This section may be referenced throughout the analysis section of your report
Generally, the title of each section will be numbered and bold. Specifics, such as whether or not to use
roman numerals or how exactly to title each section, may vary by company or industry.
Graphs & Visuals
Without a doubt, visuals are key in many data analysis reports. Visuals are easier on the eye than words
and are incredibly useful when explaining your analysis. Take care in choosing the most effective and
clear method of displaying your results. Bar charts work well for general comparisons, while pie charts
compare parts of a whole. Line charts are good for displaying changes over time or a relation between a
control variable and dependent variable. Scatter plots and histograms help effectively display the
distribution of data. Choosing which graph to use is generally not difficult for anyone whose profession
involves analyzing data, but many resources are readily available on the web describing different charts and
their uses. Additionally, it is expected that you possess the necessary skills in Excel or other relevant
software to create meaningful visuals to accompany your report.
More difficult, though, is the process of choosing which graphs to include in the body in which to leave to
the appendices. If you have lots of data which all contributes to your major conclusions, consider
combining the data into a single graph or chart which can be easily included in the body of your report.
Individual, more specific graphs can be left to the appendices.
A key step in report writing that is often overlooked is the writing style and voice used in the report. It is
vital that you maintain a professional tone throughout the paper; otherwise, readers will not take your
analysis seriously. It should be obvious that you should remain formal and avoid the use of first and
second order pronouns ("I" and "you").
Also, it is important to keep your audience in mind. Who will be reading your report? Most data analysis
reports are written for clients or collaborators, i.e. people who have a general idea about the concepts you
are discussing. However, oftentimes data analysis reports are made public or are intended for multiple
audiences simultaneously. Perhaps your report is primarily intended for your coworkers but also will be
shown to employees in other departments. Keep the body of your report concise and to the point, but it is
perfectly acceptable (even preferred) to go into much more detail explaining technical jargon or statistical
methods in the appendices. This can be useful for readers not in your particular line of work but still with
most of the knowledge required to understand the report. The Executive Summary, on the other hand, is
intended for the public or those who do not plan to read your report at all.
Remain objective throughout your report. Be descriptive and informative. Keep your purpose in mind, and
try not to go off track. A data analysis report has a very specific goal: to inform readers of your analysis of
a set of data.
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