How to Mindfully Summarize Data Insights

Shot of newsletter article summary from Girlgaze.

It can be difficult to transparently present key insights in a world saturated with fake news and click-bait. Study results are often distilled into share-worthy titles that get read and taken as gospel without anyone actually reading further, so be conscious of how you choose to share data findings. Here are a few ways to stay humble while summarizing your data, based on a headline from the Girlgaze newsletter about an article from Gay Times.

Shot of newsletter article summary from Girlgaze.
Screenshot of Girlgaze newsletter from June 29, 2019 with added underlining and highlighting.
  1. Avoid sweeping generalizations that encourage assumptions about entire populations. This headline implies the sexual identity of all young people, instead of a small portion of youth in existence. A quick change would be to add ‘Surveyed’ after ‘Youth’ to reinforce that this was not a large sample size (‘over 2,000 adults‘).
  2. Name the party or parties responsible for sponsoring the collection of data. This communication successfully names the commissioner of the study early in the description. This allows the audience to have full transparency about involved parties who may influence a study’s outcomes.
  3. Avoid the use of definitive language. The last sentence in this quick summary is too precise in saying ‘clear indication‘ and should say what the ‘much more fluid perspective‘ is in comparison to. Studies use a sample from a population to provide meaningful insights. Samples are not meant to determine a definitive stance for every member of a population. Surveys take into account an array of potential variables, and language such as ‘clear indication‘ would imply researchers have explored every possible avenue of bias.

Other ways to communicate transparently with an audience include sharing links to raw data, naming potential sources of error, and making suggestions for future method improvements. Providing an audience with every opportunity to explore your data and understand methods empowers people to consume insights responsibly.

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