Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.
I’m David Keyes and I run R for the Rest of Us. Through online courses and trainings for organizations, R for the Rest of Us teaches people to use R. We also do consulting work with researchers and evaluators, creating high-quality data visualization, helping organizations to use R to improve their workflow, and much more.
Many people are scared of learning R because it has a steep learning curve. While it’s true that R takes some time to learn, the benefits are huge. Being able to automate multi-site reporting, a process that takes untold hours if done manually, is one great example.
Reporting on a multi-site evaluation can be tedious. Say you’re evaluating an afterschool program at 20 schools and you want to produce one report for each site. And say you have 5 charts you want to include in each report. I don’t know about you, but the idea of manually making 100 charts, copying them into each report, writing the text for each report, all while trying to make sure I don’t make any mistakes … it’s not my idea of fun.
Before I learned to use R, I made reports like this. But now that I use R, I’ve figured out a new way to make tens, hundreds, or even thousands of reports automatically. This technique is called parameterized reporting.
Using parameterized reporting, you can create a single report template and then write code that automatically creates one report for each site. It relies on RMarkdown, a tool for automating reporting in general (and which I’ve written about on AEA365 before). If you’ve never used R, it can all sound a bit abstract, so let me show you how it works (if you know how to use R and want to see my code, that’s here).
At R for the Rest of Us, we use parameterized reporting all the time. For example, in 2020 we made 170+ reports on housing data in each of Connecticut’s towns and counties. And last year, we made 52 reports on outreach efforts for the 2020 U.S. Census. Being able to make reports like these is now possible because of parameterized reporting. If you’re looking for a reason to learn R, this is a great one!
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