Presenting Research Synthesis in a Way People Understand
It’s not just about the research but also about how we present the findings
I volunteer for an Australian organization that strives to reduce domestic abuse and alleviate homelessness in Australia. The organization is run by a group of lived-experience individuals with a mission to operate equally in metropolitan areas where high housing prices make it harder for women to live alone and in rural areas where there is a lack of Domestic Abuse services. A major chunk of my role involves research — identifying the different cohorts and how to reach out to them. I conduct a lot of desk research, read several publications, reports, newspaper articles and journal articles to understand the current landscape and how it has progressed over the years. That’s when I came across ANROWS — Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety Limited, a not-for-profit independent organization.
Often, the most challenging part of research is finding the best way to present our findings or synthesis. This is especially important when we work with stakeholders who do not understand the “why” of research, and those who need convincing that research lays the groundwork for what we are trying to build (most often, at least). In such cases, when you present a long report that’s heavy on words, your stakeholder is unlikely to be impressed, and may regret even more now than before as to why they agreed to conduct research in the first place.
I for one try my best to present findings visually, in a way that’s easily understandable to the layman, and I keep seeking inspiration to do better. In my experience being a researcher, the publications by ANROWS are easily some of the most well-presented papers. I found it so easy to just skim through the papers, and yet understand the context, the different areas of focus and the key takeaways from the paper.
Below is an example of a paper that provides a research synthesis of domestic and family violence, housing insecurity and homelessness. I have taken screenshots of the report, highlighted a few parts and numbered them for easy reference. The descriptions follow the images.
The first page of this report gives you all the information you need: 1. The purpose of the report which brings your attention to what the report contains and what it does not; 2. Who it is targeted at, which let’s you make an early-decision as to whether you want to continue reading; 3. A summary (key issues) of the report, if you don’t have the time to read all the pages; 4. Some quickly digestible stats gathered in the research process that gives you an overview of the report.
5. Sometimes I struggle to find citations in research papers, which is why I had a moment of excitement when I located it within seconds.
6. I like the fact that the key issues under the summary section from the first page, has further been expanded in the pages after, clearly stating the issue first. 7. While the grey box is not the focus of this research paper, since it’s still important information, it has been highlighted and placed on the right.
8. The issues are listed on the left side, and recommendations on the right side, making it easy for readers to compare the two to see if there are relevant recommendations pertaining to a specific issue. 9. What’s more, the recommendations are further divided into two — what we see on this page is recommendations for policy. This targets a specific set of audience.
10. The other set of recommendations are for practice, once again targeting a a specific group of people.
11. I love that there’s a section for forthcoming research. If the forthcoming research has gained someone’s interest, they can come back to the ANROWS website in the future to look for these papers. I know I will be. It would have been nice if there was a link for subscribing to these papers!
In conclusion, I have come to learn that as researchers, it’s not only important to design and conduct research, but also important to present the findings in a way that everyone understands. You don’t want to lose out on a potential target group just because your findings are not presented clearly enough. As I keep seeking inspiration every day to improve the way I design my reports, this paper by ANROWS has given me a good direction. I hope you find it useful. :) Here’s the link to the original paper — https://20ian81kynqg38bl3l3eh8bf-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/DV-Housing-Homelessness-Synthesis-2.Ed_.pdf.