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Contents | 1. Essence | 2. Aproaches | 3. Process | 4. Measuring outcomes | 5. Paradoxes
6. Examples | 7. Jargon | 8. Checklist | 9. Practice tips | 10. Resources


9. Practice tips

A. Thinking about

B. Framing an

C. Evaluation
     report outline

D. Model of service
E. Community

F. Peer review
G. Focus groups
H. Telling stories
I. Staff time use
J. Questionnaires


A. Thinking about evaluation

Evaluation as a professional field has only emerged in the second half of the 20th Century. What is evaluation? What is its history? What is its role in society? What's its connection with research? What conceptual models does it use? What practical tools and strategies does it use?
This is list of key readings to give staring points for thinking about these questions.

Evaluation history and context

Evaluation as a professional field has only emerged in the second half of the 20th Century. In understanding evaluation today it is useful to have an overview of the history of evaluation; some of the ways it can be described and issues shaping it at present.

1. Ray Pawson & Nick Tilley (1997). "A history of Evaluation in 28 1/2 pages" in Realistic Evaluation. Sage. (29pp)

2. Mansoor A.F. Kazi (2003). "Contemporary perspectives in practice evaluation" Chapter 2 in Realist Evaluation in practice, Health and Social Work. Sage. (12pp)

3. Peter Dahler-Larsen (2006) Chapter 6 "Evaluation after Disenchantment? Five issues shaping the role of evaluation in society" in the Sage Handbook of Evaluation ed by Ian Shaw, Jennifer Greene and Melvin Mark. Sage. (19pp)


There are many views about what evaluation is. Here are two useful starting points.

4. E. Jane Davidson "What is Evaluation" Chapter 1 in Evaluation Methodology Basics The Nuts and Bolts of Sound Evaluation, Sage 2005 (12pp)

5. Randy Stoecer (2005) "Evaluation" chapter 7 in Research Methods for Community Change. Sage (29pp)

Research, evaluation and policy

Research and evaluation are connected with policy. There are many ways of thinking about this connection. The following article describes several models for this relationship.

6. Brendan Gibson (2003). Beyond 'Two communities', Chapter 2 in Evidence-based Health Policy Problems and Possibilities edited by Vivian Lin and Brendan Gibson. Oxford University Press (13pp)


Evaluation is about valuing. There are no value free evaluations.

7. E. Jane Davidson "Values in evaluation" Chapter 6 in Evaluation Methodology Basics The Nuts and Bolts of Sound Evaluation, Sage 2005 (13pp)

How we know what isn't so

Some of the errors we make because of the nature of our human thinking include: We jump to conclusions - we see more than is there; we are good at creating order out of random data; We see what we expect to see - especially when the evidence is ambiguous; and We see what we want to see - our motivations affect our inferences.

8. Thomas Gilovich (1991). "Seeing what we expect to see, The biased evaluation of ambiguous and inconsistent data, Chapter 4 in How we know what isn't so, The fallibility of human reasons in everyday life. The Free Press. (24pp)

9. Thomas Gilovich (1991). "Seeing what we want to see, Motivational determinants of belief, Chapter 5 in How we know what isn't so, The fallibility of human reasons in everyday life. The Free Press. (24pp)


Human services are typically provided through organisations. When evaluating human services one needs ways of conceptualising organisations - how do we think about organisations; one also needs ways of identifying what makes a good organisation - what are the characteristics of a thriving organisation?

10. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal (2003) "Introduction, The Power of Reframing", Chapter 1 in Reframing Organisations, Artistry, Choice and Leadership, Third Edition, Jossey-Bass (17pp)

11. Paul Bullen Ways of seeing organisations

12. Paul Bullen Characteristics of thriving organisations

Outcomes hierarchies and theories of action

A key challenge in evaluating human service programs is making explicit what the program is intended to do and how it works. This is commonly referred to as a theory of action and/or an outcomes hierarchy

13. Michael Quinn Patton "Conceptualizing the Intervention", Chapter 10 Utilization-Focused Evaluation 4th Edition, Sage 2008 (22pp)

14. Louisa Gosling with Mike Edwards (2006). Tool 3 "Logical framework analysis" in A practical Guide to planning, monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment. Save the Children. (13pp)


In human services it is often difficult to show cause and effect relationships in programs. Evaluation of programs needs to deal with the causation issues in some way. The first reading suggests ways of gathering evidence about causation; the second describes the connection between causation and research design. The third brings together these and other related ideas.

15. E. Jane Davidson "Dealing with the causation issue" Chapter 5 in Evaluation Methodology Basics The Nuts and Bolts of Sound Evaluation, Sage 2005 (18pp)

16. David de Vaus (2001) "Causation and the Logic of Research Design", Chapter 3 in Research Design in Social Research. Sage. (19pp)

17. Paul Bullen Finding cause and effect in human services web site

Qualitative interviewing

Quality qualitative interviewing requires good interviewing skills. This reading provides very practical advice for interviewers.

18. Michael Quinn Patton "Qualitative interviewing" Chapter 7 Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods 3rd Edition, Sage 2002 (88pp)

Running a focus group

This book provides practical tips on running focus groups.

19. Rosaline Barbour Doing Focus Groups, Sage, 2007 (170pp)


Surveys and questionnaires are often a very cost effective evaluation tool. This reading provides an overview of the survey process.

20. Earl Babbie (2007). Chapter 9 "Survey Research" in The Practice of Social Research 11th Edition. Thomson Wadsworth. (40pp)

Composing questionnaire questions

People designing surveys often (rightly) worry about whether the questions are 'good questions'. This reading provides many examples of 'wrong' and 'right' questions.

21. P Alreck & R Settle "Composing questions" Chapter 4 The Survey Research Handbook Second Edition Irwin McGraw-Hill 1995 (26pp)

Cognitive interviewing

A very useful way of testing the appropriateness of questions in a questionnaire it to do cognitive testing - ask some people to complete the questionnaire in a face to face interview where they think out aloud and tell you their responses to the questions as they attempt to answer them. This reading provides practical step by step instructions on how to do this.

22. Gordon B. Willis Cognitive Interviewing in practice Chapter 4 Cognitive Interviewing A Tool for Improving Questionnaire Design (20pp)

Gathering data, making measurements

There are many different kinds of data one can gather in an evaluation process. This reading provides an introduction to data and things to consider when thinking about data as indicators.

23. Peter R. Scholtes (1998). "Keeping Track: Measurement of improvement, progress and success". Chapter 7 in The Leader's Handbook. A Guide to Inspiring your people and managing the daily workflow. McGraw-Hill. (30pp)

Results based accountability

Results based accountability (RBA) in human services is a systematic way of thinking things through to take action to improve programs, agencies and service systems to help make people better off and/or to improve the quality of life in communities, cities, states and nations. It is a systematic way of thinking things through to take action.

It is a useful tool in thinking about evaluation, improvement and data collection.

24. Mark Friedman (2005). Chapter 1 "What is Results Accountability and How does it work?" and Chapter 2 "The Building blocks of results accountability "in Trying hard is not Good Enough. Trafford. (28pp)

Evaluating advocacy

Advocacy is not a typical human service. Here are some readings and tools specifically about evaluating advocacy.

25. Louisa Gosling with Mike Edwards (2006). Chapter 11 "Planning, monitoring and evaluating advocacy" and Tool 13 "Frameworks to help analyse the advocacy process" in Toolkits A practical Guide to panning, monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment. Save the Children. (26pp)

Collecting life histories

In human services it is often important to understand the life story as a context of service delivery and its impact.

26. Robert L. Miller (2000). Chapter 4 "Collecting Life Histories" in Researching Life Stories and Family Histories. Sage (39pp)

Quantitative analysis

When analysing quantitative data is is important to understand the different kinds of questions that can be asked and what kinds of analysis are required to answer the questions.

27. Paul Bullen Quantitative analysis: Questions to ask

Deciphering Data and reporting results

How do you analyse the data you have gathered and report on it?

28. Michael Quinn Patton "The Meanings and Reporting of Evaluation Findings", Chapter 13 in Utilization-Focused Evaluation 4th Edition, Sage 2008. (50pp)