Reading Ahead: Looking for the story
By Dan Soltzberg at 11:03 pm, Monday August 17 2009
Part 17 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

I started today by typing up all of the Post-it notes you saw in our recent blog post on Synthesis.

This activity created a 6-page Word document of bullet points.

The next part of the process is something I always find challenging: taking an incredibly detailed list of observations, particpant statements, hypotheses, and ideas; figuring out what the Big Ideas are (there’s a point in the process where many of them seem Big!), and putting those into a form that tells a cogent story.

First step: make a cup of tea.

Ok, then my next steps were:

  • Categorize all those bullet points
  • Synthesize those categories a bit further
  • Write down in as short a paragraph as possible what I would tell someone who asked me, “what did you find out?”

Then I went into PowerPoint, which is what we use when we present findings to our clients. I’ll continue bouncing back and forth between Word and PowerPoint; each piece of software supports a different way of thinking and writing.

I dropped my synthesized categories into a presentation file, sifted all of the bullet points from my Word doc into the new categories, and then started carving and shaping it all so that it started to follow the paragraph I had written. (I’m mixing cooking and sculpting metaphors here.)

I printed out the presentation draft, and laid it out so I could see the whole thing at once.


Steve came back from a meeting and I asked him to read over what I’d printed out. He started writing notes on my printouts, pulling out what he saw as the biggest of the Big Ideas.


We talked about what he’d written, which led to an energetic discussion in which we really started to breathe life into this. Tomorrow, I’ll start the day by iterating the presentation draft based on our conversation.

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One Response to “Reading Ahead: Looking for the story”

    links from Technoratihlights – Jeff Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Julie Reading Ahead: Topline Summary Reading Ahead: Participatory Design Reading Ahead: Photo Diaries Reading Ahead: Analysis and Synthesis Reading Ahead: Secondary Research (part 2)Reading Ahead: Looking for the storyReading Ahead: Managing recruiting Reading Ahead: Building models Reading Ahead: Research Findings (updated) And slides which form the final output: Portigal Consulting: Reading Ahead Research Findings

    Pingback by Conversations with Dina 09.06.09 @ 5:13 pm

    nice to see a research process deconstructed… but i hope you are using recycled paper! :)

    Comment by jamie 08.18.09 @ 8:28 am