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Reading for Comprehension in Intelligence Analysis
Transcript of Reading for Comprehension in Intelligence Analysis
Reading for Comprehension in Intelligence Analysis is Required.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the definition of Read is "to look at and understand the meaning of letters, words, or symbols, etc.”
and Comprehension is defined as "the ability to understand.”
When we put these two definitions together we can see that reading and comprehension goes hand and hand. To read without understanding leaves the reader void and without interpretation.
Intelligence as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI 2016) is "information (raw data) that has been analyzed and refined so that it is useful to policymakers in making decisions”
The Intelligence Process begins with a Question--
The Need to Know
The Intelligence Analysis process is utilized by government agencies, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, corporations, and educational institutions.
There are various forms of data/ information that analyst must filter through; such as reports, government documents, financial records, emails, newspapers, magazines, blogs, social media post, maps, flyers, journals, phone records, etc., (printed or electronic material) all of which requires a great deal of reading and comprehension. The type of data collected depends upon what is being studied.
Photographs, videos, broadcasts, podcast, and recordings are also considered raw data that must be analyzed. Although photos and videos are not written text, they can provide valuable information that require interpretation. Echoing the words of Frederick R. Barnard, a 1921 advertising executive, “One look is worth a thousand words”. (Martin, 1997, para 2)
Symbols, emblems, body markings (tattoos) or graffiti can also provide valuable information about a particular person, group, or subject if interpreted correctly.
Intelligence analysis according to Scott, (1995) is “a process of collecting and generating intelligence. The process usually involves accumulating information about a variety of circumstances and individuals for strategic, operational, or tactical intelligence". (para 1)
According to Bari, Anasse, Chaouchi, Mohamed (2014), “Selecting, processing, cleaning, and preparing the data is laborious.” “It is the most time consuming task in the predictive analytic life cycle.” (p. 58).
Reading and Comprehending each piece of information is vital in this phase of the process. Patterns, trends, and similarities are identified during this phase. Invalid, outdated, or incorrect information must be extracted. Incorrect information can lead to false predictions and/or exasperate a problem for decision makers.
When conducting research to obtain raw data/information, an analyst will visit various websites and search countless databases. Reading/reviewing large amounts of data.
The raw data may be structured or unstructured. Structured data is well organized information that is easy to retrieve and understand. Unstructured data is miscellaneous pieces of information that are not easy to retrieve and are found in various places. (Bari, Anasse, Chaouchi, Mohamed, 2014, p 44)
Process and Analysis
Once the raw data has been collected, processing and analysis begins. Often times this phase is more complex than the collection phase. It consists of reviewing, organizing, comparing, and linking information that has been gathered from different sources. It is the process of taking the raw data and changing it into actionable intelligence.
(McCue, 2015, para 9)
When Analyst link information together, they are illustrating how each piece of information is related or associated. Charts or graphs may be used as tools to link or establish associations. This may approve or disapprove what has been read and interpreted about the subject or person.
Often data mining is used to research large volumes of data to create predictions. According to McCue, 2015, “data mining involves the systematic analysis of large data sets using automated methods, probing data in this manner, it is possible to prove or disprove existing hypotheses or ideas regarding data or information, while discovering new or previously unknown information. In particular, unique or valuable relationships between and within the data can be identified and used proactively to categorize or anticipate additional data or subsequent event”. (p.31)
Dissemination & Collaboration
Critical thinking also plays a major role only after reading and comprehending the actionable data. Analysts must look at all possibilities and think outside of the box. According to Moore (2007), “Critical thinking provides the framework by ensuring that each form of reasoning is appropriately used.” (p. 6) Critical thinking helps analyst formulate recommendations, possible solutions, and accurate predictions for future outcomes.
The final phase of the analytical process is the production of an intelligence report which requires good writing skills.
The intelligence information is disseminated as a means of informing the decision makers, reducing uncertainties, and influencing possible outcomes of future events; therefore, the report must be legible, clear, and concise.
Failure to provide accurate, legible, and usable information can have devastating consequences for decision makers. However, we must keep in mind that intelligence analysis is not perfect and does have its short falls. No one can ever be perfect at predicting the future. According to Lowenthal, Marks (2015), Intelligence Analysis: Is It As Good As It Gets? :
“We must recognize and understand that intelligence analysis is an intellectual activity, not a mechanical one….. Although we appreciate the possibility that some analytic tools and information technology solutions will assist analysts, they all remain tools that do not change the core substance of intelligence analysis:
the ability to read, think, and write critically
Bari, A., Chaouchi, M., Jung, T. (2014). Predictive analytics for dummies, 1st Edition. Publisher
John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, Hoboken, New Jersey.
Comprehension (n.d) Merriam-Webster.com Retrieved February 16, 2016 from
Lowenthal, M. M., & Marks, R. A. (2015). Intelligence Analysis: Is It As Good As It Gets?
International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, 28 (4), 662-665
Martin, G., (1996). Phrases, Sayings, Proverbs, and Idioms at the Phrase Finder 02/01/2016
Mccue, C. (2015). Data mining and predictive analysis: Intelligence gathering
and crime analysis. 2nd edition. Butterworth Heinemann Waltham, MA
Moore, D. (2007). Critical Thinking and Intelligence Analysis. Occasional
Paper Number Fourteen. Washington, DC: National Defense
Intelligence College: Retrieved from:
Read. (n.d). In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved February 16, 2016 from
Scott (2015, August 23) What is Intelligence Analysis? Retrieved from
U. S. Government, U. S. Department of Justice The FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation. Intelligence
Branch: 02/01/2016 https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/intelligence/defined
American Military University
February 28, 2016