What Makes a Good Explanation

What Makes a Good Explanation

What makes a Good Explanation

Today in My DSCI 542- Communication and Argumentation class we discussed what made a good explanation. What is a top down approach vs. what is a bottom up approach? Where should we start? What examples are good examples? Something that was never brought to my attention is how powerful the “curse of knowledge” is when it comes to making a quality explanation. Sometimes when we understand something so well we seem to jump straight to examples and language that is familiar to us, but not for the person on the receiving end.

Some of the best explanations use a bottom up approach and start with an analogy. We compare what we are explaining to something relatable and easy to understand. We introduce the concept before adding any labels to it. Once this ground work has been set in place we can build on it. Using visual aids, diagrams and plain English are all things to keep in mind while executing an explanation.

A key point that contributes to the effectiveness of an explanation are the quality of examples. The 2 articles we contrasted in class used very different examples in their explanation. Unanimously the class confirmed that examples that were straight forward, interactive, visited from all possible angles were the preferred choice.

And don’t forget this useful acronym that our instruction told us about!

ADEPT: * Analogy
* Diagram
* Example
* Plain English
* Technical Definition

Don’t be afraid to make it playful. The more effective explanation used in class was fun, upbeat, and it was delivered in a less dry manner.

Good luck and happy explaining!

Hayley Ford Boyce
Data Scientist and Educator

I like to discover, display and communicate impactful insights from data, making sure they are transparent, clear and easy to understand for the respective audience.