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Daniela Schröter on Improving Evaluation Document Clarity

My name is Daniela Schröter and I am the director of research at The Evaluation Center and an associate faculty of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Evaluation (IDPE) at Western Michigan University. In my position, I write a lot of evaluation proposals and implement evaluation projects together with IDPE students and Center staff. One of my pet peeves is making documents produced for potential clients as attractive and user-friendly as possible.

Hot Tip: When using MS Word, make use of the formatting functions. I am especially fond of creating automated Tables of Contents (TOCs) and making extensive use of the options in the “paragraph tab”. Automated TOCs are especially useful when writing long documents. They are easy to update, can help cut down time for editing reports, and hyperlink to the place in the text. You can create similar lists for tables and figures, if needed. The paragraph tab is great for setting up templates where the spacing for different levels of headers and paragraphs is consistently applied. Both functions, in addition to others not discussed here, allow for creating attractive text documents that do not look like they stemmed from an “academic” institution.

Rad Resource: For evaluation proposals, I have been using www.poweredtemplates.com. This site provides templates for MS PowerPoint, brochures, MS Word, and more for free or at cost, depending on the template you choose. These templates are great for proposals and projects with specific themes and can be reused for all kinds of deliverables in a given project (presentations, proposals, management plans, briefing papers, reports, etc.). If you are doing your work within the same discipline and context, you are likely going to find a template that is useful for quite a while and across a lot of projects. The templates are easily adjustable for your needs and adapted across different document types. Further, they look more attractive than the standard templates provided in MS Office.

Rad Resource: Another resource, I am using quite frequently is MS Visio. Visio can be used to create attractive time lines, graphics, logic models, and more. Usually, you can find a version for download and testing at no cost; but once you are hooked, you will likely purchase it. I believe it is the best tool for creating professional graphics. If you are an MS Office user, you have the added benefit of being able to open Visio files within Word to make changes and adjustments to your graphics as needed. On the downside, Visio files may be large and slow down your capacity when working in Word. If you experience such shortcomings, just save your file as a jpeg and insert it in your text as a picture.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

4 thoughts on “Daniela Schröter on Improving Evaluation Document Clarity”

  1. Stephanie Evergreen

    Thanks for the tip on the template resource! I like using specific templates, layouts, and images for each of my evaluation projects. It helps me keep organized and I’m betting it does the same for my clients. I plan to check out this resource.

  2. I am a HUGE Visio fan. I discovered it about 6 years ago and introduce it to every consultant I can. If you have been doing graphics in Powerpoint or Word, you will find the application quite freeing. You can focus on the concept rather than the application. Omnigaffle for MAC plays fairly well with is for you bi-application families.

  3. Hi Daniela,

    Thanks for the great tips and resources. I still have not yet mastered Word’s automatic TOC’s (I admit, I’ve usually just become too lazy to figure it out and just resort to manually inserting the TOC’s!). But, perhaps it’s time I start leveraging Word’s abilities more often. 🙂

    Regarding Visio, it is indeed great software. But, for the more budget-conscious evaluator, I find that Gliffy (gliffy.com) is a suitable (and free) alternative.

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