Giving knowledge new life – the meat of the story

In my last article we talked about building the skeleton that supports a great case study. We learnt that good communication starts with understanding who you are talking to, what you want to tell them and why it’s important that they understand or agree with you.

Now we’re ready to talk about data.

It’s such a dusty word for what is the juicy brilliance of your case study. It’s the evidence that you use to support your story.

Perhaps you have collected quantitative data; numbers and facts. To make the most of this kind of data, present not only tables, graphs and statistics that describe the results of your activity, but also explain why these results are important.

For example, if I could say that 23 babies were born at a regional health centre in the last year, it would be more compelling to add that this means that most of the local pregnant women were able to have their babies in their own community.

Perhaps you also have qualitative data? This could be a collection of stories, images, quotes, findings and experiences involving the case study’s project and participants. If quantitative data is case study gold, then qualitative data is the fairy dust that makes them fly.

For example, tell the story of one of the mums who gave birth at the regional health centre. Describe how being at her local hospital meant that her whole family could share this wonderful experience and welcome a fourth generation into the community.

The key to compelling data is to make it clear, interesting and relevant to your message and your audience.

So now you know who you’re speaking to and why. And you’ve collected a lot of content to tell your story. Now it’s time to consider the form of your case study; whether it is written, audio or visual.   

In all cases you should consider the context in which your audience is getting the story. Which format do you think will best communicate the vital information and influence your audience? Is it a written document, a podcast, a film or TV show? Or is it something else entirely?

Maybe your case study would be best using sound and images. Perhaps you have a class of effervesant prep kids who can tell you about what they learned in fire education class and how they then taught their family those fire safety skills. Perhaps you are demonstrating the effects of sustainable practice in community gardens. Or perhaps you have a couple of articulate experts who can talk about their project in an entertaining way. Or perhaps you want to use these case studies as part of a presentation, or include in a tool kit to help others learn.

Regardless of the format you should think about your language, or tone of voice.

We all have many ways of speaking. Think about how you might say something in a text message compared to a written letter, or on a phone call. The way that you use language depends on its context. And different language styles influence the perception of the information.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that it’s a written case study. You then have a choice of what style of written case study.

Perhaps it could be like a magazine feature article. You’ll need to consider; what kind of magazine? The Age’s Sunday Life? The Big Issue? The Milawa Cheesemongers’ Association Newsletter? (I made that last one up. Although if it does exist I’d like to subscribe as a friend of cheese, please.) Because I would suggest that all of these publications write for different audiences.

Or perhaps you are interested in a more classic case study style? Let’s see how these two styles might interpret the same information differently:

Original text (dry, dense and technical text) – When I say original, I made that up too. In fact, all of these language examples are fictional.

Whilst 89.5% of the parents participating in the ‘Now we’re a family’ program displayed a significant degree of increased awareness of the issues surrounding PWAW, namely gender power imbalances and entrenched gender stereotypes – demonstrating that the program addresses the key determinants of violence against women – 89.34% of parents also expressed a higher satisfaction in their relationships and in transition into parenthood.

Classic Case Study (clear, pragmatic and structured)
The majority of parents in the ‘Now we’re a family’ program experienced:

  • Increased self-awareness and understanding of gender equality and roles
  • Improvement in their relationship
  • Improvement in their parenting skills

Magazine (In the style of The Big Issue; warm, moving and personal)
The ‘Now we’re a family’ program changes lives. David says, “I’d say I was a pretty hands on dad before, but now I’m definitely not as afraid to look after my baby. I really understand now what my partner is going through and we talk about things a lot more. And I love it. There’s a real sense that we’re doing this as a team. I tell all the blokes at work they should do this program. It’s awesome!”

You can see in that last paragraph that personal stories provide a lot of impact. You can hear the energy and enthusiasm in David’s voice and you how the program has touched his life. Using real stories provides the reader someone with whom they can identify. When the quote is relevant and clear, it can validate other information in a way that is warm and compelling.

At the heart of it all is a good idea that you want to share. Remember who you want to talk to and why. Collect your information and think about what is the best format for your message and its audience. Then use language to influence the perception of the information.

If you can tell that story clearly using an interesting case study that engages your audience, then you give your knowledge a new life.

– Cressida B

Check out more stories in the category: Knowledge Bank