Hi there, my name is Amanda Kelley Corbin. I am an evaluation analyst at The Human Development Institute (HDI), Kentucky’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, University of Kentucky. We help to improve lifelong opportunities and services for individuals with disabilities, their families, and the community. Before becoming an evaluator, I received an MFA in fiction writing.
Last time I shared how journalism can inform evaluation writing. Today I’m sharing how the elements of fiction writing can be applied to evaluation. While evaluation reporting is factual, it still tells a story. Components of fiction writing can be used to describe real world situations
Next time you sit down to write, try incorporating some of these into your work:
- Character – There’s a saying in education, “It’s people, not programs,” that could be applied to evaluations as well. It’s what happens to people that measures a program’s success, and it gives readers the opportunity to empathize. Readers feel more connected to stories about individual people than they do about data points.
- Plot – Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. What action took place? In what order? How did one thing impact or lead to another? How did it impact the people involved?
- Point of View – Whose perspective does your reporting take? Why did you choose that perspective? Which perspectives show the most impact? Which perspectives might cast more doubt on the impact?
- Theme – What are you trying to say with your data? What’s it really about, under the surface? Provide context for quantitative data and dig into qualitative data to find deeper meaning.
- Setting – It’s often overlooked, but it’s important to communicate what it’s like where you are to readers who might be unfamiliar with your part of the world. What’s special about where your story takes place? How does the policy environment affect things?
- Dialogue – While in fiction dialogue is usually a conversation between people, in reporting, quotes are a way to insert someone’s voice into your writing, whether it be an interview subject, a project director, a client, or some other stakeholder. Don’t underestimate the power of a good quote!
Humans are hardwired for story, and narrative engages the brain in a way that data on its own cannot. Use that to make the story behind your data as impactful as it can be.
(Fun) Rad Resources:
They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.