In Depth: What We Said

What We Said 2008

Each year the Iowa Department of Education publishes The Annual Condition of Iowa’s Community Colleges. In 2008 I was a part of a major redesign which included adding meaningful narrative and emphasis on graphical representation of data. As we prepare the 2009 edition we are evaluating last years report. We had a few goals for the narrative last year. Namely, we wanted to avoid the continual reference to “community colleges”, “Iowa”, and be less repetitive. It’s quite clear that the report is on Iowa community colleges, so it doesn’t always need to be specified. We also wanted to limit phrases like “however”, “nevertheless”, and especially, “namely”. We also wanted to emphasize joint enrollment (e.g., concurrent enrollment), so we wanted to see high usage of that word.

So how do we evaluate it? We turned to ManyEyes, and specifically, Wordle graphs to display the narrative. We did alright. Percent was the most frequent word, which is hard to avoid. There is still room for improvement. Both community and college are oft-used phrases, so we’ll try to reduce it in the future. “Joint” and “jointly” were frequent, but not frequent enough.

The ManyEyes dataset of words used (main body text only, no headers or tables) is located here. The Wordle visualization is available here. Click on the image above to get the PDF of a tabloid-sized visualization.

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