UX Research Toolbox: Anatomy of a Compelling Narrative for Your UX Research Reports

Projects and deadlines move fast, and often teams cannot wait for UX researchers to write lengthy, thoughtful research reports.

This time crunch has forced UX researchers to think of new or more creative ways to get findings quickly into the hands of those who need them. 

Is there still value in creating a UX research report today—even after the activation team already has the results? Absolutely!

It’s useful to document research findings in a well-written deliverable for at least 3 critical reasons…

  1. Teams, leaders, and researchers change: Documenting the findings ensures the knowledge lives on and research studies aren’t unnecessarily repeated, which wastes time and money.
  2. Researcher Accountability: A written report holds the researcher accountable to their findings, ensuring the research is reliable, valid, and rigorous.
  3. Documentation: Among fast-paced teams, memories will quickly fade about the details of each study conducted over the past year. Having everything documented and organized in one place—sample sizes, dates, methods, findings, etc.—makes it much easier to put together a “year in review” and celebrate the team’s work!

UX Research Report Writing Tips

Here are my best tips when assembling your next research report:

Develop a clear structure

A clear and logical structure will help stakeholders follow the research narrative and keep them engaged. Yes, even research reports should have impeccable usability! Omit all jargon. Use consistent and information-rich headings, subheadings, and bullet points. 

Be sure to bring along those who aren’t close to the research by starting with the big picture, and then zooming into the specifics. 

Tip: I learned early on in my research career that most executives want all key findings summarized onto a single page—and at the top of the report. 

Use storytelling techniques

Storytelling hooks stakeholders and makes the findings significantly more memorable. Include user stories or anecdotes that illustrate key points and create an emotional connection to the data. 

For example, you might tell a journey-based story that brings stakeholders along the emotional highs and lows as a user completed each task on their journey.

“Data doesn’t speak for itself, it needs a storyteller.”

Nancy Duarte (communication specialist)

Use visuals

Skip the stock images, and instead create your own visualizations to convey ideas. These might include flow charts, simple journey maps or storyboards, Venn diagrams, decision trees, matrices, low-fidelity wireframes, etc.

Use analogies and metaphors to illustrate key concepts or findings.

Remember, insights don’t come from bar charts, pie charts, or trend reports. Insights are powered by humans who add context and draw meaningful connections.

Incorporate real user quotes

Include quotes from real users to add a human touch and reinforce the research findings. Use quotes that are representative or particularly eloquent or provocative. 

Additionally, I like to use Reduct to make research highlight reels. It’s incredibly powerful to show multiple 5-second clips in a row of the same usability task failing over and over and over.

Make recommendations actionable

Ensure your recommendations are directly relevant to the findings, specific, actionable, and—if possible—take budget or technical limitations into consideration. 

Alternatively, you may consider including “thought starters” as a way to leave behind your point of view—but without overt recommendations.

Include the full research plan

Ensure that research teams who come after you have everything they need to know about the research objectives, methodology, sampling method, incentives, known biases, etc. 

Avoid having the validity of your research findings called into question because another researcher is skeptical of the research design.

For more tips crafting a stellar research report, I highly recommend Nancy Duarte’s book “DataStory: Explain data and inspire action through story.”

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Author: Kristine Remer

Kristine Remer is a CX insights leader, UX researcher, and strategist in Minneapolis. She helps organizations drive significant business outcomes by finding and solving customer problems. She never misses the Minnesota State Fair and loves dark chocolate mochas, kayaking, escape rooms, and planning elaborate treasure hunts for her children.