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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Thinking Strategies and Writing Patterns

Patterns for Presenting Information

Discussing Raw Data

At some point in your college experience (and certainly if you are a graduate student), you will do original research. Perhaps you will dig through an archive of old manuscripts, or you will conduct a survey, or you will evaluate sets of data aggregated by a government agency. 

In each instance, you will have to write about the raw data you have researched. Your discussion could be as short as a note about the data in a table, or it could be as long as an entire report. Regardless of length, the general-to-specific pattern usually works best when discussing raw data. 

To understand the value of the general-to-specific pattern, remember, the purpose of writing about your data is to give it meaning. A common mistake students make is failing to interpret their data. Instead, they merely describe it. The order in which the general-to-specific pattern works encourages you to provide a general interpretation followed by the specific support suggested by your data.

The general-to-specific pattern also engages your readers. Remember that raw data is, almost by nature, puzzling. It invites interpretation and discourse. Your job as the writer is twofold.

1.     Help the reader understand the raw data. Your readers may be as puzzled as you were the first time you saw the raw data. Help them understand the data and why you have interpreted the data in a certain way. 

2.     Invite the reader to engage your interpretation. When you offer an interpretation, paired with raw data, your readers can examine your interpretation and form their own. This process of sharing and inviting interpretation is foundational to the discourse communities in which you will be taking part.

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Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing