Tell Them What You Will Tell Them, Tell Them, Tell Them What You Told Them…(Part 2) by Kavita Mittapalli

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Photo of Kavita Mittapalli, PhD
Kavita Mittapalli, PhD

Hello! I am Kavita Mittapalli, Ph.D. I own a K-16 research and evaluation firm, MN Associates, Inc. (MNA) just outside Washington DC metropolitan area. I founded MNA in 2004 as a graduate student at George Mason University. I have a Ph.D. in Research Design and Methodology in Education. We are a team of five evaluators and an administrative staff with a combined 65 years of experience conducting a wide variety of social science and STEM education research and evaluation projects across the country.

In 2008, when I was dissertating (yes, that’s an accepted word), one of the faculty members in our How to Write Your Dissertation 1-credit class quoted Aristotle very enthusiastically in an attempt to make it “seem” easy to write a dissertation.

They said, “Begin with What you will tell them, then Tell them, and close with What you have told them,” which will pretty much constitute your dissertation chapters:

(Abstract), Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Analyses/Findings, and Conclusion/Summary. 

To this day, I follow this general guideline (I know it is a bit cliché too) with tweaks and modifications based on clients’ needs and budget to write our evaluation reports. 

Typically, a 20-25 pages evaluation report for a small to mid-sized contract consists of these sections: A) Table of Contents, B) Acknowledgements, C) Disclaimer notice (copyright issues, if any) – generally we don’t count these towards the 20-25 pages.

Tell it all briefly (1-2 pages)
  • Executive summary (with small tables/graphs)
Tell them what you will tell them (3-4 pages)
  • Introduction
  • Organization of the report
Tell them more what you will tell them (2-3 pages)
  • Evaluation: Plan, design, questions, performance metrics, and data collectio methods
Tell them (5-6 pages)
  • Data analysis (include easy to understand tables, graphs/data viz + narrative)
  • Findings organized per evaluation question, as feasible
Tell them what you told them (2-3 pages)
  • Conclusions – Summary
Tell them, even if it’s not at good news (2-3 pages)
  • Lessons learned
  • Recommendations, if any
If you want to tell them even more, then include:
  • Appendices with tools/instruments used, technical/methodology section, detailed stats., images, etc. (page limit varies and based on clients’ needs).

Don’t forget the References.

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2 thoughts on “Tell Them What You Will Tell Them, Tell Them, Tell Them What You Told Them…(Part 2) by Kavita Mittapalli”

  1. Isabelle Collins

    These principles don’t work for all audiences/clients. In our case we have to reorganise the pieces into a “report structure for busy people”. So our sections focus on
    – What are you telling me? (and what do you want me to do about it?)
    – Why are you telling me this?
    – How can I trust what you are telling me?
    It’s all there, just in a different order to suit our particular audience.

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