The main challenge in writing technical papers was triangulating the necessary components of authority, delivery, and expandabiliity.
Regarding authority, it was essential to establish the standing of the report. In this case, the primary credentials rested on the authenticity of the United States Census Bureau (USCB) data which formed the foundation for the report. Of course, my credentials were clearly secondary to the USCB’s authority. As a result, it was particularly essential to describe the methodology used to extract data from the USCB’s online portal, to convey that the technical papers were accurate and based on authoritative information. Unfortunately, at times I lost sight of that and tried to keep the description of methodology to a minimum, and it was flagged that my description of methodologies was sometimes insufficient. However, for L10 it was not specifically advised to describe the underlying methodology, but in retrospect I should have implicitly understood that doing so was essential. (Although I did describe the methodology in earlier assignments.) Otherwise, it was not too much of a leap to go from collecting data to writing about it.
Regarding delivery, it was important to guide the reader toward essential points and intended takeaways. In the most basic sense, this simply meant going through the data, explaining the techniques used, and highlighting any pronounced characteristics. However, in some places I failed to adequately summarize the most basic aspects of the data. I think that I struggled to find a balance between simply describing the data, and trying to cultivate added value through interpretive takeaways. For the most uninformed reader, a simple description of essential points might be sufficient. Thankfully, I received positive feedback on the overall delivery of the results. Notably, in a professional or academic setting, delivery would also include dissemination of the results, so I should have given more thought to this and perhaps included that in the submission notes. For example, I could have considered a hypothetical scenario where I would have been commissioned to prepare these technical papers, and then thought through the right contacts, as well as ways to follow up.
Regarding expandability, I should have considered how to make the technical papers as useful as possible to multiple agencies, factor in federal funding opportunities, and argue for further research. These were actually my weakest areas, in retrospect. For example, it would have been best to consider activities of several governmental departments and actively made the technical papers relevant to all of them. Instead, I was more or less myopic in that regard. Furthermore, there are funding frameworks around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I should have related the analysis to SDGs in order to facilitate expanded thinking about how to actually fund solutions to the challenges described. Additionally, I should have consistently argued for further research. Of course, a single technical paper will not hold all answers to all issues. I should have supported policy makers to continue pursuing more knowledge in order to make informed decisions.
Thinking back over the assignments, these takeaways are very helpful. In some ways, it feels like the assignments were lost opportunities to have done more. Even though they were homework, I should have considered interesting ways to deliver them better and expand upon them in exciting ways. For example, I should have written them in a way where they were publishable on my ePortfolio or perhaps even somewhere else. However, without more development of the data descriptions, it seems unlikely that the documents would be clear without the accompanying spreadsheets. In future projects, I will try to maintain a focus on publishing in order to keep these practical considerations in mind.