Questions stated with plots in law firm survey reports

Readers of survey reports deserve to know the precise wording of the questions that generated the report’s findings. How a question was phrased, the way instructions were added, what selections were available and in what order: all are vital for evaluating the reported data. Many reports don’t restate the question, but appear to summarize it in a plot’s title. Others quote or paraphrase the question asked in their text discussion of the plot. User-friendly reports state the question near the plot or table that summarizes the data.

A superlative treatment comes from Appendix A of HoganLovells FDI 2014 [pgs. 61-75], which lists all 19 questions that were on the survey (and presumably in their order on the questionnaire), as well as nine demographic questions, along with the choices available to respondents for each question. Even more, pages 76 to 95 reproduce in summary tables the data that was collected.  We heartily praise this comprehensive disclosure.

In the snippet below of Reed Smith London 2018 [pg. 19] the question appears above the plot.

Littler Mendelson Employer 2013 [pg. 5] states the question clearly, but considerably above the plot.

Gowling WLG Protectionism 2017 [pg. 14] reveals a style variation: the question sits snugly close to the plot. As compared to Littler Mendelson, proximity and bold fit highlight the connection between the question and the data.

The final example, from Pinsent Masons TMT 2016 [pg. 10], accentuates the question with red font and close proximity. Offsetting the question to the left is an aesthetic move. The subtitle in parentheses tells readers which subset of the data the plot summarizes.

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