Tricks for Getting Started and Unstuck by Rhonda Williams

Hello! My name is Rhonda Williams, and I am a Research and Evaluation Analyst for Region 10 Education Service Center, where I provide internal program evaluations in addition to external research and evaluation services for our partner districts. As a new evaluator, I have run into times where the next steps are not always clear, or I have various paths to analyze the data provided to me where I need to make the executive decisions of how to proceed. During these times I have found these three tips to help me refocus and obtain clarity.

Hot Tip #1: Read research or evaluations about unrelated topics

Since I am in the education field, I often find large think tanks or foundations to learn about issues in transportation, healthcare or urban-renewal. I often subscribe to some of the organization’s newsletters in order to begin receiving their information and research. I always learn new ways to design research projects, to present data, to analyze data, to present my findings and even craft my final reports. I gain inspiration and perspective by consuming the hard work of others!

Rad Resource: Link of US Think Tanks

Hot Tip #2: Reach out of my local peers

My local area has an emerging group of evaluators primarily in education who meet each month; I have met many who are involved in similar work to myself in other organizations. I am now able to reach out via phone to thought-partner or schedule coffee-dates to gain assistance in my work. Using my local professional network allows me real-time access to others and allows others to access me as well. These pro-bono consultancies help me to move my work forward, in addition, to assist in building my professional network.

Hot Tip #3: Re-read previous reports, projects, and even dissertations.

The process of understanding and interfacing with my old thinking reminds me that I am capable of creating and executing strategies to answer complex research questions. It also connects me to the present problems of practice by providing alternative ways of conceptualizing and analyzing the problem. I am also able to revisit the different frameworks and research designs that have been successful for me in the past.

I have come to use these tips quite often, and it keeps me connected to my work in ways I did not initially imagine. Consuming the work of other researchers across industries and even continents allow me to take the limits off of your projects and explore other opportunities to examine, re-examine and move forward in 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Tricks for Getting Started and Unstuck by Rhonda Williams”

  1. This was a great read! I appreciate Hot-tip #3, there’s been many times where I look back at the design of one of my previous reports and re-introduce those elements into a current project! This saves ton of time. Thank you for linking to this post in your latest blog post!

  2. Hello, 

    I am currently enrolled in a Program Inquiry and Evaluation course through Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Within the course we are completing a program evaluation of a public non-profit organization.  I found your three “hot-tips” immensely valuable in navigating through my project.

    I will use tip #1 to start looking at other program evaluations and see how I can utilize data and sharing methods to present my findings.  Likewise for hot tip # 2 I have access to all of my classmates through an online message board, where we can provide feedback and ask questions of others progress.

    For Hot-Tip #3 you mentioned that you ” Re-read previous reports, projects, and even dissertations.” With never having conducted program inquiry and evaluation, where should I start in regards to reflecting on past work, as there is nothing in this field to draw upon? Do you remember to back when you conducted an initial evaluation? What was that experience like? as it seems like a multi- faceted and diverse field.

    Thank you and have a great day!


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