Evaluating Development Cooperation/Standard Evaluation Methods/Reporting Methods

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Report writing

Report writing is going to form an essential part of PPA researchers’ task. Sufficient

attention will therefore need to be paid by all members of the research team to this.

However well the field exercise will have been, all will come to naught if the findings

are not clearly articulated for the others to take note of.

Although some people find report writing quite easy, for the large majority this is a

very difficult task. In the second PPA this task is even going to be more challenging

than was the case in PPA1. The num ber of sites that are going to be covered will be

much larger and the issues that PPA intends to cover are expected to be more

complex. Yet the expectations of good quality reports are quite high, thus

necessitating some special effort in report writing.

One way in which we can improve our report writing skills and thus become more

confident about writing itself is by considering the processes that other writers

employ. Overall, experienced writers rely on five key steps in writing. One can move

more than once through any of these steps for more information, better organisation,

or a more developed draft.

The key steps are:

Prewriting: Deciding on the subject, considering the needs of the reader,

and gathering information.

Planning: Choosing a preliminary thesis and organisation.

Drafting: Writing a first draft to develop the main ideas and discover new

ones.

Revising : Making changes in the thesis, structure, content, paragraphing,

and sentences.

Finishing: Proofreading for grammar, consistency, spelling errors, and

preparing the final copy.

(1) Prewriting (can also be used in actual writing)

Step 1: Clarify your topic, theme or subject before starting to write your report.

Try to answer the following questions:

(1) What is the assignment that we have been researching about and for which we

need to write a report?

(2) What should we write about the assignment?

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(3) How can we keep our topic within manageable limits?

(4) What is our purpose in writing about this topic?

(5) Who will be the readers of our report?

(6) What is our role as a writer/s?

Step 2: Make reminder lists of:

topics

sub-topics

themes

interesting findings, issues, points, etc

quotes

Step 3: Take each of the topics that you want to write about and then use the six

“helper” questions to begin developing your report:

What was it?

Who was involved in it?

When did it happen?

Where did it happen?

How did it happen?

Why did it happen?

Step 4: Develop organisational patterns for the report

You may use the “traditional” methods for presenting information, such as narration

and comparison, to develop new perspectives on the subject that is being written on.

The following format may be useful:

Description: How would you describe it? What are its traits? What are

its physical or other characteristics? How does it look, feel, sound, etc?

Narration: How did it come about? What history does it have?

Comparison: What is it similar to or different from? Can it be

compared to something more familiar? How is it like or unlike that

similar/dissimilar example?

Examples: What examples illustrate your topic/point?

Cause and effect: What caused it? What effects has it created?

Process: How does it occur? What processes does it involve? How is it

used?

(2) Planning: The process could be achieved in three stages as follows:

Stage 1: Choose the main idea or thesis

A thesis is a sentence that presents the main idea or set of ideas of the report, an

idea that every fact and detail should support (a thesis may change after a first draft of

the report has been written – if the evidence from the research is contrary to the

thesis).

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The thesis has two qualities:

It states the paper’s topic

It states a specific opinion or attitude concerning the topic.

The thesis also helps to establish the purpose of the report.

Example:

Topic Thesis statement/s (Topic + Opinion or Attitude)

Vulnerability among

fishermen

Over-exploitation of fish stocks from the

sea off the coast of Bagamoyo (due to the

policy of liberalisation of fishing, trade and

markets) has led to heightened vulnerability

of local fishing communities and to a

serious decline in fishing livelihoods.

Stage 2: Choosing an organisational pattern

After collection of information and the writing of the preliminary thesis statement/s

the next step now is to organise ideas. This process continues throughout the rest of

the drafting. A possible guide (list) for shaping the report may include:

Chronological: telling the story; explaining the evolution of a

problem; and describing the order in which something happened.

Description: describing the layout of a place; the situation of poverty

in a given locality; trends, the complexity of policy and planning, etc.

Simple to complex: moving from an overview of a situation to

specific details concerning it.

Thesis/support: stating a general judgment and then explaining it in

smaller units. Here logical evidence is useful.

Order of importance: formulating an ordered list of goals to be

achieved, tasks to be accomplished, or points at issue

Checklist: presenting items to consider, in order, before performing a

certain action.

Process: presenting the steps involved in accomplishing a certain goal.

Comparison: judging between two or more alternatives.

Cause and effect: considering the causes of a problem as well as its

effects. This is usually a challenge that makes PRA\PLA claims of less

value.

Problem solving: making the decisions necessary to move from a

current situation to a desired situation. This has implications for policy.

Pros and cons : reviewing good and bad points about an issue and then

making recommendations.

Persuasion: arguing for a change of belief or action – useful for

advocacy.

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Stage 3: Creating a plan for the report

It is now time to work on the structure of the report. Note, however, that decisions

may change as you write, but a preliminary plan still helps to direct your work. Read

over your pre-writing materials and your thesis, and attempt using the following

approach:

(a) Developing clusters, topic outlines and key statements: Moving from Field

activity reports to Site Report s

The following steps can help us in writing up information that the team now has in the

form of Field activity reports. This is only a suggested approach. There are many

other approaches. Team members should familiarize themselves with the process and

understand the rationale behind each of the steps.

Step1: Silent reading

Copies of all field activity reports should be made available to each team member,

who should in turn read each report silently, taking note of key points, including

process, findings and tentative conclusions.

Step 2: Loud reading

Each Field activity report is read out loudly by one of the team members. All the other

team members listen actively, taking note of the most important information in

the Field activity report. Keep your fieldwork notebooks handy. You may need them

for reference.

Step 3: Card Writing

At the conclusion of any reading of a Field activity report each team member writes

down on cards the key points that they discern from the listening exercise. These

could be process points, findings, analysis, conclusions, etc. Specific quotes can also

be written onto cards verbatim. Agree as a team the format and codes that you wish to

use before writing commences. Only one point should be written per card (refer to the

card writing notes for details of how to write cards). After cards for all Field activity

reports have been written, they should now be posted onto a wall or other large

surface.

Step 4: Clustering and/or categorizing of cards

The team should now proceed to cluster or categorise cards according to common

issues, themes, etc. The clustering exercise is iterative and interactive. Initial

emphasis should be on creating broad categories or clusters. This will then be

followed by sub-categories and later by a definition of possible linkages and

relationships. Give appropriate titles to the clusters and sub-clusters (e.g. Coping

Strategies of IDPs).

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Step 5: Write short statements

Using a flip-chart you should now write short statements that describe the issue/s,

findings, conclusions, unanswered questions, etc. Keep the message simple and clear.

This should in due course give you a number of paragraphs – the first building blocks

for your Site Report. Find appropriate visuals, quotations and pictures to illustrate the

story behind the writing. After writing the statements check both the cards and the

Field activity reports (and possibly also your notes) to confirm that no important piece

of information has been left out.

Step 6: Assign draft statements parag raphs to structure

Assign your draft paragraphs to your pre-determined structure, being flexible enough

to cater for any need to modify structure.

Step 7: Time to check

Check for correctness, consistency and validity of what you have written. Ensure that

the statements logical sense, are not repetitive, and appropriately respond to your

thesis. This is also one of the final opportunities for the team to see if there is

information that was not recorded in the Field activity reports or vital information that

was recorded but has not been captured in the draft report. After checking, give the

draft to a peer (or colleague) to read and give you feedback on content, style, process,

etc.

7.6 Drafting

Step 1: Practical arrangements

Identify an appropriate place (where you normally feel comfortable

writing from);

Choose an appropriate set of tools: pens, pencils, calculator, computer,

etc.

Step 2: Start your first draft

When you are ready to write:

begin the drafting process by reviewing the results of your research

and planning.

Put your thesis, analysis,, and outline on one sheet of paper.

Group your notes so that they reflect your intended order of writing.

Write your draft – at this time not worrying about your starting point –

it could be at the beginning, with a conclusion, or in the body of the

report.

Step 3: Write quickly

Write quickly, following your outline. If new ideas come outside of

your outline write them down too so that you do not forget them later.

Get down on paper every point that supports your thesis, and fulfils

your objective of informing, analysing and advocating.

Explore creative options – nothing that you write can be wrong.

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Ignore the following possible voices inside you: “it is too short”, “this

sentence does not make sense”, “this paragraph is not clear” – revising

and proofreading will come later!

Step 4: Do not get stuck

Do not allow yourself to get stuck!

If you do not have enough information about a particular point:

- leave a dash, and continue with the rest of the report.

- write down the question that you will need to answer later -

and then continue.

- Return to the prewriting and outline notes.

Step 5: Wrap up your draft writing

Now that your first draft is nearly ready:

make some notes to guide your revision.

jot down points that need more research or possible changes in

organisation.

Jot down any new good ideas for inclusion in the second draft.

7.7 The structure of the report

Structure means the manner of building, construction or organising; the arrangement

or interrelation of all the parts of a whole; the manner of organisation or construction.

Why do we need a structure?

When we read a document, we expect to be able to navigate through it with ease,

finding information presented in a readable way, so that when we put it down we have

got the message.

Readers will need to know what the report is about, why they should read it, and what

action is expected of them as result. They do not want to be daunted by a threatening

layout containing large volumes of information without headings, visuals, table of

contents, etc.

Overall, the report should have:

(a) An introduction – giving background information, outlining methodology, and

stating the main thesis.

(b) A body – detailing the findings and relating these to the objectives and thesis

of the study.

(c) A conclusion – which includes a summary statement of implications of the

findings.

The key structural components that are proposed for Site Reports are:

(1) Title

(2) Subtitle

(3) Originator/Publisher

(4) Table of contents

(5) Introduction/Rationale/Purpose

(6) Chapters, Sections/Parts

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(7) Headings and subheadings.

(8) Numbering systems.

(9) Bullet points

(10) Visuals.

(11) Appendices.

(12) References

(13) Index.

The following tips/questions could be useful when one is developing a structure or its

contents:

Identification: Have you identified where, when, and with whom the

research was done?

Objectives: Have you spelt out what the research set out to do in the

field in the first place?

Methodology: What process was followed? What methods were used?

What did the process and methods help to bring out? What limitations

did you encounter with the process and methods? How were they

overcome?

Findings: What were the most important findings of the research?

How did the findings help answer the research questions? How did

they differ from expectation? What lessons do we learn from these?

Conclusions and Recommendations : What are the main conclusions

from the study? What implications do these conclusions have for

different stakeholders but particularly for policy? What

recommendations do you make from the study?

9.2 Reporting Organization programme teams are required to prepare the following programme reports:

Quarterly Financial Exception Reports (reporting only financial variances on budgets)

Annual and other Impact Reports (NB these are not required in 2005/6 while a review of Organization's monitoring and evaluation system is underway)

· Completion reports - see OPAL

Regions may also have their own internal reporting requirements, for example some ask for quarterly programme reports with more narrative detail. Your Country or Regional Programme Manager will be able to advise you of these requirements.

When a PIP closes, the final PIP quarterly report should be modified to record main achievements and failures, reasons for closure, decisions made on any grant balances, recommendations regarding future collaboration with partner agencies (where applicable) and main lessons learned.

Donors also require reports to be written and different donors will have different requirements. Some guidance on this is available from your regional International Funding advisor or from the International Funding Unit in Oxford, or check the Donor information page on the IFU intranet pages. If you cannot find what you are looking for there, contact IFU direct or the Programme Help Desk on phd@Organization.org.uk