SEA Professional Development Week: Developing Final Reports by Dr. Michelle Chandrasekhar

My name is Dr. Michelle Chandrasekhar and I serve as Board Secretary for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA).  My work experience includes higher education and state government, and recently with local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies. Working in different venues reminded me that our evaluation reports share several key elements across disciplines, audiences, and purposes. Below are two of these common elements.

  • What we produce must be faultless. In talking about her report strategies used at the S. General Accounting Office’s Program Evaluation and Methodology Division, Eleanor Chelimsky told a 2006 AEA Conference audience that the reports her office produced had to be accurate. If there was any kind of error, it could provide justification for ignoring or refuting the report.

Hot Tip: Hard to read reports are not used. Carefully proofread your writing, logic, and results. Use a checklist and get multiple people to review the document. Ask for examples of previous reports the clients have liked or hated to review and reference for developing future reports.

  • The audience that reads your report has a different agenda from yours. Chelimsky also said that politicians (and we can agree, any decision-maker) understand evaluation within the context of their own agendas. Evaluators need to be aware of those agendas and skilled at presenting a credible case for their work.

Hot Tip: Reports tell a story and should be written bearing in mind the interests of your audience and what they do and do not know. Tell your audiences about The Characters (Who asked for this report? Who is involved?), The Setting (Why was this report requested? Why was the data collected?), The Plot (What are the research questions? What is the study design?), The Conflict (What are the issues or caveats?), and The Resolution (What are the results and recommendations?). Yes, even an internal report can include recommendations – you know the data!

Rad Resources: Check out these links for further reading:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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