Writing about data

5 top tips to help you engage critically with data.

For data to have meaning, you need to analyse it, interpret its meaning in context and present it in a way that helps your reader use the information for their purpose.

These critical thinking skills are a key part of academic and professional work and usually involve evaluating information and making judgements and recommendations for both expert and non-expert audiences.

A step by step approach

When you’re dealing with data, it can help to work through it in three steps:

1. Analyse

Examine each component of the data in order to draw conclusions. Do you notice any patterns or trends? Can you see any errors or inconsistencies?

2. Interpret

Explain what these findings mean in the given context. What does this mean for your reader? What story is the data telling?

3. Present

Select, organise and group ideas and evidence in a logical way. Which findings are most relevant or important? Will text or graphics will make meaning clearer to your reader?

How do I write an analysis?

This video works through a sample task to suggest how you might analyse, interpret and present data.

Final tip

When you’re editing, highlight sections that are descriptive, analytical and interpretive. You can do this by looking for language that shows critical analysis and interpretation, such as ‘this is important because…’ ‘what this means is…’ ‘this indicates…’.

Once you've highlighted your paper, what do you notice? Is there more description than analysis? If so, you will need to address this in your next draft.

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