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baz

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hi,

Can anyone recommend any research papers relating to business intelligence report design?

I am currently studying part-time for an MSc in IT, whilst also working in the Business Intelligence sector, mainly working on data warehouses and ETLs.  After having worked on numerous projects where care is put into the analysis, design and development of a data warehouse, I feel that the same amount of care is not put into the data warehouse output (i.e. reports/dashboards) for whatever reason.  It is this final hurdle which is just as important as the previous ones that could seriously affect both the success of the business intelligence implementation and consequently the organisation in which it has been implemented. 

Now for my masters dissertation I am very interested in finding more about BI front end reporting, such as a topic title "Reporting/dashboarding/scorecarding design factors that affect the success of a business intelligence implementation", however I am having problems identifying relevant research papers.   I have got all of Stephen Few's books (and I also recommend them to all the report developers that I have worked with!).  I very much like the concepts that Stephen puts forward, but cannot find supporting academic research; only books, white papers and articles.

Please is anyone able to provide any references to relevant academic papers?  My intended topic seems to be a join the subjects of "Business Intelligence" and "Information Visualization".  What papers I can find are more focused on the back end stuff or BI in it's entirety. 

I look forward to hearing from people, whether it be references, suggested search terms, if you have any comments about the proposed dissertation topic or even alternative ideas for my research!

Thank you.

sfew

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Reply with quote  #2 
A great deal of academic research informs the data presentation design principles and practices that I and others teach, but you'll rarely if ever find the term "business intelligence" associated with it. Research in this area has been going on for many years, since long before the terms business intelligence or data warehouse were coined. There is nothing unique about data presentation when produced by BI software versus other reporting software, so there is no need for research in this area that is uniquely associated with BI. For a good introduction to relevant research, I recommend the books of Colin Ware.

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Stephen Few
baz

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for your comments Stephen.  I have found some research over at TDWI.org, who appear to have increased interest over the last couple of years in data visualization and its application to BI.  One could question the independence of this research however due to the multiple vendor sponsorship, but it is a start for me! 

I have also followed your recommendation and have borrowed "Visual Thinking for Design" for my uni library.  Thanks for the tip.
sfew

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Reply with quote  #4 
What is the title and who is the author of the research by TDWI?

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Stephen Few
baz

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Reply with quote  #5 
I have found these ones on TDWI which seem relevant.

Eckerson, W.W & Hammond, M (2011) "Visual Reporting and Analysis: Seeing is Knowing".  TDWI Best Practice Report, 1st Quarter 2011.


Eckerson, W.W. (2009) "Beyond Reporting: Delivering Insights with Next-Generation Analytics".  TDWI Best Practice Report, 3rd Quarter 2009.
sfew

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Reply with quote  #6 
These reports by Wayne Eckerson don't qualify as research about report design in the sense that you mean. Papers like this by TDWI usually report the results of surveys about BI usage, needs, etc., not about actual research into best practices.

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Stephen Few
baz

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Reply with quote  #7 
OK thanks for that.   

I may be getting academically semantic now but having done a bit more research the fields I am interested in are Business Intelligence and Data Visualisation (i.e. not the previously mentioned Information Visualisation).  Especially the latter's sub-fields of statistical graphics or information graphics.

To support my Master's research I am hunting for evidence that, for example, a bar chart is better than pie chart for conveying a particular type of message to the reader.  The concepts you present in your books (and in Tufte's) make total sense and you mentioned in a previous post that there is plenty of research on the data presentation design principles.  However with an academic hat on I find few peer reviewed journal articles that supports the use of one graphical method over another for a particular purpose.  I may well be wrong or just a poor searcher (please tell me if so!).  If I am wrong, I can still test the suitability of these concepts to my industry and investigate user experience levels.  However, if I'm right then there is a gap in the research and I think that my research would be of worthwhile at least in the context of my industry.

As always, your thoughts are most welcome.
baz

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Reply with quote  #8 
OK, just found this article titled "KNOWLEDGE-BASED DESIGN OF GRAPHICAL RESPONSES" by Helen Chappel and Michael Wilson.  Despite being from 1993, and not widely cited given its age it could be the gateway to other articles I have been looking for!  



sfew

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Reply with quote  #9 
Baz,

Several research studies have been done that compare the effectiveness of pie charts to bar graphs for displaying part-to-whole relationships. Many of them are unfortunately of little worth because they're not well designed. As I described in my article "Save the Pies for Dessert" a few years ago, only for one task has a pie chart been found to do better than a bar graph. In a study by Robert Spence, he found that when you want to compare the sum of multiple parts (i.e., multiple slices or bars) to the sum of another set of multiple parts, this can be done more easily with pie charts. That's it. How often is this particular task relevant? In my experience, almost never.

Most of the research studies that are relevant to questions such as this focus on a lower level: attributes of visual perception rather than particular types of charts. William Cleveland's work many years ago established a hierarchy of visual attributes for decoding quantitative values, which placed area and angle comparisons (what pie charts rely on) well below 2-D position and length comparisons (what bar charts rely on).

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Stephen Few
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