Writing About Data
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Writing About Data






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Writing About Data Writing About Data Presentation Transcript

  •  English 317: Technical Writing Writing About Data The following lecture is adapted from Joanna Wolfe’s Writing About Data. 1
  • The English language has three basic types of linguistic patterns for connecting main ideas: coordinators, subordinators and transitions.Connector Examples Structure Where they Emphasis Exampletype connectCoordinators for and nor One Middle of Give equal The results are promising, but or yet so sentence sentence emphasis to two but additional research is closely connected needed. clauses.Subordinators because One Beginning or De-emphasize the While the results are since sentence middle of clause they are promising, additional although sentence attached to. research is needed. The while if until results are promising, when although additional research is needed.Transitions moreover for Two Near "Hand off" topic The results are promising. example sentences beginning of from one main However, additional however in second idea to the next. research is needed. addition in sentence general therefore thus 2
  • Subordinators show relationships Subordinators are words that join sentences and help us highlight a variety of relationships between ideas, including cause/effect relationships, contrasts, conditions, and concessions. 3
  • Common SubordinatorsSubordinator Logical Relationship Examplealthough, though, Contrast/ While we can model X-ray emissions,even Concession such an approach is often laborious,though, while, time-consuming, and impractical.whereasbecause, since Cause/ The tuff absorbed a great amount of Result water after the earthquake because it consisted of porous material.if, unless, when, Condition The stress cannot be reproduced ifwhere the blocks are too large.before, after, Time Some heart attack victims in ourwhen, study confessed that they phonedwhenever, until, clients and rescheduled meetingsas soon as before they called an ambulance. 4
  • A subordinator changes the sentence. When we put a subordinator in front of a sentence, we change the sentence from an independent clause to a dependent (or subordinate) clause. Independent clause (a sentence) Dependent clause (fragment) 5
  • Examples of dependent and independent clauses.When Jim studied for calculus, he became anxious.dependent clause independent clause(cannot stand as a complete sentence) (can stand as a complete sentenceBefore our class meets, I need coffee.dependent clause Independent clause 6
  • These sentences can be written so the independent clause comes first.Jim became anxious when he studied for calculus.independent clause dependent clause(cannot stand as a complete sentence) (cannot stand as a complete sentenceI need coffee, before our class meets.independent clause dependent clause 7
  • When the dependent (subordinate) clause comes first,it is always followed by a comma. Because the study sample is small, additional research is needed. If the blocks are too large, the stress cannot be reproduced. Before you start, make sure you have all the needed parts. Whereas a hoist can only lift and lower, a crane can move loads in horizontal and vertical planes.8
  • When the dependent (subordinate) clause comessecond, a comma is not used* No comma needed:  Additional research is needed because the study sample is small.  The stress cannot be reproduced if the blocks are too large.  Make sure you have all the needed parts before you start. Comma optional [because contrast subordinator (whereas) is used]  A crane can move loads in horizontal and vertical planes whereas a hoist can only lift and lower.* unless a contrast or concession subordinator word is used, in which case the comma is optional.9
  • Joining sentences to show concession. The subordinators although, though, even though, while, whereas to show contrast. But they do more than contrast:  they de-emphasize the points they are attached to and show concession. Concessive subordinators are useful in emphasizing a study or test’s good points while acknowledging mistakes or flaws.  Although the engine does not start well in temperatures below zero, the other test results are quite promising. 10
  • You may want to emphasize the “bad” news as in this sentencethat serves as to warn readers: Although Emu oil appears promising for treating a variety of skin conditions, research results have not been evaluated by the FDA.You may want equal emphasis: The results are promising, but the design has some flaws. 11
  • To show Use Transitional PhraseAccumulation also, in addition, again, once again, further, furthermore, moreoverSimilarity similarly, likewiseContrast however, by contrast, on the other hand, unfortunately, unlikeException still, nevertheless, nonetheless, in spite of, despite, in any caseConsequences consequently, thus, therefore, hence, accordingly, as a resultExample or for example, for instance, as a case in point, to illustrateEvidenceGenerality overall, in general, generally, on averageEmphasis in fact, indeedSequence, Time, or first, second, third, previously, simultaneously, subsequently,Order next, finally, at the same timeSummary or therefore, to sum up, in summary, finally, to conclude, inConclusion conclusion, as shown 12
  • Digested vs. Undigested Data In one study comparing successful and unsuccessful engineering reports, engineers and managers frequently referred to "digested" vs. "undigested" data. Effective engineering communicators were those who "digested” their findings and explained what the data means. These engineers not only reported technical information but helped their readers understand the significance of the data. 13
  • Formula for writing useful (digested) data for readers.Step 1: Refer to the table or figure and state the most important finding.Step 2: Support this finding by emphasizing high and low points in the data.Step 3: State the bottom line: explain what this information means to your readers. 14
  • Step 1: Refer to most significant findings.Noun Verb FindingFigure 1 indicates that the O-rings fail to maintain contact at low temperatures.Table 2 demonstrates that the hydrostatic needle was less stable than the conventional needle. that ejection mitigation glazing may reduce fatalities in roll-Figure 4 suggests over accidents. 15
  • In choosing verbs, engineers and scientistsalmost never use the word “proves.” Instead, they use words that indicate their level of confidence in the findings or results. demonstrates High confidence shows indicates illustrates reveals suggests may suggest might indicate Low confidence seems to suggest 16
  • Step 2: Emphasize high and low points in the data.dependent clause – deemphasized main clause – emphasizedWhile the O-ring maintained contact at 100F, it lost and failed to reestablish contact at 50F.Although the ejection-mitigation glazing had it reduced fatalities by 20% atno effect at low speed accidents, speeds of 30 mph and by 30% at speeds of 40 mph or higher.Whereas other chemicals re-hydrated within 5 the solid sodium chloride would notminutes, re-hydrate. 17
  • It’s possible to reverse the order. Notice, however, that the emphasis is the same because the subordinator determines the emphasis.main clause – emphasized dependent clause – deemphasizedThe conventional needle performed well at all while the hydrostatic needle wasrotation speeds. unreliable at high rotations.The ejection-mitigation glazing reduced fatalities although it had no effect at lowby 20% or more at speeds above 30 mph speed collisions 18
  • Making recommendations based on data you collectand analyze. Writers may be reluctant to come out and make a recommendation or conclusion because they fear being wrong. While this is a logical fear, managers, supervisors, and other non-technical personnel want to know what actions they should take based upon your data. As the person who has collected and analyzed the data, you are in the best position to say what it means. When writing a recommendation, you should ask yourself—who is my main reader and what does this reader most need to know? If youve been asked to evaluate the safety of a product, your reader almost certainly needs you to come out and say whether or not the product is safe. 19
  • Three steps to report data and makerecommendations.1. Begin with a noun referencing your findings, data, or results. Use a one or more transitions showing result, such as therefore, consequently, however, etc. to signal that your recommendations naturally follow from your analysis of the data.2. Use one of the common verbs used to refer to data in slide 18 and understand the verbs reveal your level of confidence in the data.3. State the "bottom line” -- explain what the data means in terms of your readers’ main concerns or goals. 20
  • Example:Noun Transition Verb Bottom linereferring to data showing result referencing dataThese findings therefore suggest that the O-ring seal should not be used because it is unreliable at low temperaturesThese tests however reveal that conventional needles are more reliable than hydrostatic needles.Figure 4 consequently indicate that further research should be conducted on ejection mitigation glazings. 21