CHAPTER 12 Using Context to Inform

Providing your audience with context about the data, the subject, and the impact of your findings helps them draw meaningful conclusions and understand the relevance of your analysis. When you work with data and spend time analyzing and visualizing it, you need to ensure you give your audience enough background information to set the scene. If you jump straight into the detail, you will lose your audience very quickly and leave them confused, uninspired, and potentially misinformed.

For Makeover Monday, we select data sets from a variety of topics and urge our participants to give their audience sufficient context, because if the subject is unfamiliar to our community, it is probably unfamiliar to their audience as well.

This chapter describes why context is important, how you can communicate context easily, and how context allows you to inform your audience more effectively.

The Importance of Context

In everyday life, you come across numbers constantly. People tell you how tall their children are, friends talk about the results of a football match, and the news reports on the latest company revenues. Numbers are just numbers, though, and they do not mean much in isolation.

Rather than accepting the numbers as facts and the partial information they offer, you should ask probing questions to put these numbers into context. This will help you understand whether the results are good, bad, or as expected.

Here are some simple examples of adding ...

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