In one project, I worked in an interdisciplinary team on strategic social policy. We each read 200 to 300 bits of data a day (policy summaries, newspaper articles, and other short reports). We summarised the material as a five minute oral summary or occasionally we provided an one to two page report. My largest report for that team was 15 pages, including photos, tables and references. The project ran for six months, it included a review of over hundred empirical studies and reports as well as analysis of lengthy qualitative interviews that I’d conducted. Whittling the length to 15 pages was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done at a time when I was already used to writing in brief. The length of that report ended up being very controversial since policy makers hate reading anything longer than a two page Executive Summary. The reason why the report was 15 pages and not two pages was because my direct client wanted that extra detail. But I got away with it with other stakeholders because my short Exec Summary was deemed to be very useful. In large part, this was because the Exec Summary included a large table, which actually “hooked in” my broader policy audience.
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