AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Jul/13

17

Anna Jo Perry and Jens J. Hansen on Computer Aided Evaluation Reports

We are Anna Jo Perry a senior lecturer in Early Childhood Education at the Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland New Zealand and Jens Hansen, Director of the Woodhill Park Research Retreat, a place that helps postgraduate thesis candidates to successfully complete their research.

Although AEA365 contributions often focus on conducting evaluations across a range of contexts, few seem to zero in on the construction process for generating message-effective and word-efficient reports.  When we review words writers have presented as part of an evaluation report, there must be consistency between what they have said they will write and the words they’ve actually chosen.  To construct a reliable report, writers need to check internal consistency.  We achieved this by using tag-clouds to review the final version of Jo’s doctoral thesis (Jens was a supervisor).  A Tag-cloud is a computer app that can be used to evaluate writing.  It achieves this by using size to denote word frequency.  We’ve found it can be used not only for checking our own work, but also for speedily reviewing or evaluating (digital) work prepared by others.

Hot Tips: There are many free tag-cloud generators, including TagCrowd. Our process went like this:

1. Take the first (introductory) and the last (concluding) section of your report and run each separately through your chosen software.  We’ve shown this here using our introductory paragraph.

Perry

2. Next ‘eyeball’ the tag-clouds.  What key words stand out? Are there inconsistencies between sections?  In other words, how well do the tag-clouds align with each other?  Have you delivered what you said you would in your report?

3. Now, use the information you’ve generated to make revisions which will align your espousals with your deliverables.  Do this section-by-section or chapter-by-chapter.  In this simple way you can quickly check whether content within each section is the same or similar and thus internally consistent.

Rad Resources:

  • NVivo, used for qualitative data analysis can generate tag clouds.  (NVivo is a commercial product but offers a free 30 day trial.)
  • When you’ve completed your report, run it through Writer’s diet by Helen Sword.  This free application helps trim unnecessary words from your writing.  You drop written work into a space and it ‘magically’ diagnoses where your writing fits on a scale ranging from ‘fit’ to ‘heart-attack territory’!
  • Condense your report by using Text Compactor, a free word summariser.  Created to help readers cope with large amounts of information, it can also be used to evaluate writing so that composition becomes succinct.  There are a range of such programs available but Text Compactor has an easy-to-use slide that regulates the extent to which you compact your work.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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