ERIC Number: ED311947
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1989-Oct-20
Reference Count: N/A
The Presentation and Interpretation of Data to Management.
Clagett, Craig A.
Designed to help institutional researchers transform data into useful information, this paper discusses principles for presenting research results to administrators in the top levels of management. The first section describes ten fundamental principles of data presentation: knowing what information is needed; knowing when the information is needed; matching the format to the sophistication and preferences of the audience; focusing on only one or two issues in each presentation; including a brief summary; keeping the language simple; using graphics sparingly and correctly; integrating tables into the text; occasionally using mnemonics or analogies to make points; and repeating major findings in subsequent communications. The next section compares the value of graphs and charts, arguing that the decision to present information in tables as opposed to graphs must depend upon what the user wishes to accomplish. Next, criteria for designing effective tables are discussed, including the importance of making the table self-explanatory and unambiguous, specifying all sources and units, making sure the arrangement facilitates logical analysis, rounding numbers to significant digits, and ranking rows and columns by size of numbers instead of alphabetically. Next, several principles to ensure that graphics tell the truth about data are presented, including keeping the representation of numbers in graphs directly proportional to their actual numeric value; labeling graphs clearly and thoroughly; showing data variation as opposed to design variation; and refraining from quoting data out of context. Finally, the paper reviews various types of graphic presentations, concluding that horizontal bar and line/column charts are generally more effective than pie charts, segmented bars and graphs, or three-dimensional graphs; and recommending caution in the use of pictorial and logarithmic charts. The paper focuses on the fundamental principles of written reports and oral presentations. In conclusion, the paper hopes to improve the effectiveness and reputation of institutional research through stimulating self-examination. (JMC)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at a Regional Conference of the Southern Association for Institutional Research/Society for College and University Planning (Durham, NC, October 19-20, 1989).