Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Tips for Turning Information into Insights

Marcy Phelps, Phelps Research
Military Libraries Workshop, Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Alabama
December 11, 2013

Twitter - @maryphelps

Can we be replaced?

Clients are drowning in information.  Too many results from DIY (Do-It-Yourself) searching (Bing, Yahoo, Google, Ask, etc.)

We have to learn how to express our value – Show & Tell

Information Analyst – We tell folks what is worthwhile in the information that we retrieve for them.

5 Tips:

1.      Listen & Learn
  • Reference interview
  • Informational interview – how are customers going to use the information?  That tells us how to deliver the information – a report? A list? A spreadsheet? A chart or other table?
  • Include a Table of Contents and a cover letter

2.      KISS – Keep It Short & Simple
  • Use 1 or 2 sentences to justify to yourself why you are including items in your response to the requestor.
  • Executive Summary: one page, bullets, address questions, summarize answers, include links to more information, add your observations
  • Article summaries included with citations

3.      Use visual formats – charts and graphs often tell more than just a table; diagrams, dashboards, data maps, word clouds, timeline

4.      Bring in the Power Tools
  • Data mining
  • Analysis – SWOT, PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors),
  • Using Insights – FAQs, Issue briefs, Powerpoint, Cheat sheet, Intranet/portal deliverables

5.      Create a report toolkit
  • Templates for Word, Excel, Powerpoint
  • Style Guides
  • Chart Gallery
  • Map Gallery
  • Branding


Tools for Charts and Graphs:

Tools for Diagrams:
Tools for Data Maps:

Tools for Word Cloud:
  • Wordle.net
  • Pajek.com – gives some explanation of word size in a word cloud


Image resources:




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