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Transcript   CREATING KILLER FACTS AND GRAPHICS W HY MASTER THIS SKILL ? ‘Killer facts’ are those punchy, memorable, headline -grabbing statistics that make reports special. They cut through the technicalities to fire people up about changing the world. They are picked up and repeated endlessly by the media and politicians. They are known as ‘killer’ facts because if they are really effective, they ‘kill off’ the opposition’s arguments. The right killer fact can have more impact than the whole of a well-researched report. S UGGESTIONS FOR HOW TO DO IT   There are various kinds of killer facts. Most involve some kind of comparison: Type Example (Not necessarily real!) Big number: The single statistic showing the size of the problem  Armed conflict costs Africa $18bn a year ;   A Eurozone breakup could cost the poorest countries $30bn in lost trade and foreign investment; 21,000 children die every day from preventable causes; Remittances from overseas workers to developing countries are worth $372bn a year, three times the global aid budget. Juxtaposition to highlight injustice and double standards   It would cost $66bn to get everyone on the planet out of extreme poverty  –  4 per cent of global military spending ( From Poverty to Power  );  A woman’s  risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes ranges from 1 in 18 in Nigeria to 1 in 8,700 in Canada.  And  absurdity can make a juxtaposition much more memorable   It is easier to trade in guns than bananas... bananas are subject to more regulations under EC rules than sales of AK47s; Every EU cow receives over $2 per day in support and subsidies, more than the income of half the world’s people. Surprising stats More people die from road traffic accidents in developing countries than die of malaria; Mexico is the second most obese country after the US. Humanizing abstract issues 12 million more children will go hungry by 2050 because of climate change. Human scale: Statistics can be incomprehensibly big. Re-scale them to a size we can relate to.  A child dies every four seconds from preventable causes; UK aid spending per person per day is less than the price of a cup of tea; There are nearly two bullets for every person on the planet.    R   E   S   E   A   R   C   H    G   U   I   D   E   L   I   N   E   S    K ILLER G RAPHICS   Graphs can speak louder than words, as can infographics. They can illustrate the contrasts of killer facts but in addition: ã  Show sudden changes in long term trends, e.g. food prices;  ã  Show projections into the future.  DO S AND D ON’T S   Do ã  Be totally certain of the data you use to create your killer fact. The sources must be reliable, respected, up to date and referenced in your report. ã   Check before recycling old killer facts, as the data may well have changed (here’s  an example from this guide). ã  Check your argument for fallacies with someone with statistical training. ã  Be ready to provide sources to media or politicians  –  if the killer fact succeeds, they will be on the phone very quickly and you need your sources ready. ã  Mak e sure that the fact can’t be misinterpreted, i.e. that the language is not too convo luted. Otherwise journalists rewriting it in plain terms may accidentally twist your meaning. ã  Try and avoid using ‘weasel words ’   like ‘could’ or ‘up to’ (damages credibility), for instance ‘ up to 50 per cent off the world’s poor will die of preventable diseases’  could mean any percentage between 0 and 50, but invites the reader to assume the larger number ã  Make sure the best killer facts are included in the executive summary and the press release  –  ask someone other than the author, e.g. a media officer, to read through the paper and pick out the best ones. ã  Plan ahead: early on when working on your report, decide on the kind of killer facts you would really like to have. Does the data already exist to fill it out? If not, is it possible to generate that data? ã  Working out killer facts can take a long time  –  it often involves adding statistics up in a way that they are not usually added up. So make the time, or get a research assistant to help you with the calculations. Don’t   ã   Don’t cut corners on killer facts. They are crucial to a report’s impact. If you are exhausted and have run out of inspiration (a common problem late on in the writing process), ask a media officer or campaigner to help with ideas. ã   Don’t u se too many killer facts in one paper: focus on the most powerful. Otherwise they overwhelm the reader. ã   Avoid using killer facts that are not credibly sourced, even if they fit your message. It is not worth damaging your credibility for a quick hit. And remember: if in doubt, leave it out!    © Oxfam GB November 2012 This guideline has been prepared by Oxfam’s Global Research Team and Oxfam GB's Policy and Practice Communications Team for use by staff, partners, and other development practitioners and researchers. It was srcinally written by Duncan Green and has been revised and updated by him with help from John Magrath, Martin Walsh, and readers of the From Poverty to Power blog. The text may be used free of charge for the purposes of education and research, provided that the source is acknowledged in full. The copyright holder requests that all such use be registered with them for impact assessment purposes. For copying in any other circumstances, or for re-use in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, permission must be secured and a fee may be charged. E-mail  Oxfam welcomes comments and feedback on its Research Guidelines. If you would would like to discuss any aspect of this document, please contact For further information on Oxfam’s research and publications, please visit The information in this publication is correct at the time of going to press. Published by Oxfam GB under ISBN 978-1-78077-219-6 in November 2012. Oxfam GB, Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY, UK. Oxfam is a registered charity in England and Wales (no 202918) and Scotland (SC039042). Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International.
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