Getting the final evaluation report right / write

February 18, 2008 at 9:52 pm 2 comments

For many evaluation projects, an important “deliverable” is the final evaluation report, which contains the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the evaluation. Having been through many evaluations as part of a team or as an individual, I am surprised at how often this important step gets neglected or simply messed up. Following are a couple of recommendations on putting together a final evaluation report:

  • Link the findings to the original evaluation questions: Not my own idea, but something I’ve seen others do well – structure the findings of the evaluation around the original questions from the brief that defined the evaluation. In this way, people reading the report can make the connection between the questions asked and what was found out.
  • Summarise the key findings in one diagram or table: Aside from reading the executive summary, people often appreciate grasping the key results in one view. Without vulgarising the findings, I find it is useful to sumarise the key findings visually. You can see an example of this idea (called a “snapshot”) on page five of this evaluation report (pdf).
  • Separate the recommendations from the findings: Often you see recommendations spread throughout the main body of the report. I find it confusing and believe it is easier to go through recommendations when they are found after the findings (while still making clear reference to the findings).
  • Make the executive summary a summary: An executive summary should be just that – a summary. I’m surprised at how many reports actually include new information in their executive summaries that are not found elsewhere in the reports. I recommend summarising the main findings and touching on the recommendations if space allows.
  • Include all the details for the really interested and pedantic: There will be a small number of your readers that will love to look further into the details – read all the 1000s of responses to the open questions, study the way the sample was selected, etc. For these readers, I recommend including these details of the evaluation as annexes. These details, such as the survey questions, interview guidelines, description of methodology, further analysis of demographics, existing research consulted, etc. will only strengthen your report and answer some questions for a select group of readers.

Related to this topic, I’ve also written previously about how to ensure that your results are used and how to present monitoring and evaluation results.

And if you want to read further, here are some very comprehensive guidelines from the World Bank on Presenting Results (pdf).

Glenn

Entry filed under: Evaluation reporting, Evaluation use.

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