In designing surveys, managing large data sets, and analyzing and reporting data, it is, of course, very important to be precise with how one manages numerical details (e.g., statistics, percentages, counts, variables, decimal points, base citations, etc.).
However, a similar level of precision should be applied to the language used in quantitative research.
Below are some quick thoughts and tips. They may be helpful for researchers, but also perhaps for other professionals developing reports and presentations founded upon quantitative data:
- Use proper grammar and a professional tone in writing survey questions. Treat your respondent with respect and structure the question in a manner that will ensure quality responses.
- Do not just tabulate and chart survey results – communicate insights using text. You can use a combination of text headers, summary sentences and paragraphs, and key words and phrases). Write your strategic conclusions and actionable recommendations out – don’t just show the statistics.
- Try to avoid language that is too ‘research-y’ and does not clearly communicate to a reader who does not know all the context and terminology of the study you ran. You do not have to simplify down to layman language, but try to develop thoughtful copy at a level appropriate for the reader/audience.
- Sidestep marketing, market research and statistical analysis jargon. Translate your thoughts and language as a researcher into writing that you won’t have to waste time explaining later!
- Be very careful with how you use the word “significance.”
- Be attentive in writing out fractions (e.g., two-fifths, four-fifths).
- Be careful in writing out the context for reporting a percentage of respondents.
- Develop your vocabulary for writing reports and presentations. Try to evolve it over time. Identify words that clearly communicate insights based on quantitative analysis and words (especially verbs) that help communicate implications and recommendations.
Striving for precision – both with statistics and the language used to communicate insights – can be part of your ‘best practices’ for quantitative research. We want our work to be clear, insightful, and effective. Taking the time to thoughtfully and deliberately write questions, reports, and presentations (even when time is tight) will help your work resonate.
As an added bonus, this precision will support the integrity of the work. Avoiding lack of clarity, confusion, and misinterpretation with careful text will help to build trust in the insights, recommendations, and data you present.