Evaluating Development Cooperation/Standard Evaluation Methods/Reporting Methods
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
Revising : Making changes in the thesis, structure, content, paragraphing,
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?
(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:
interesting findings, issues, points, etc
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
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
(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
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.
Topic Thesis statement/s (Topic + Opinion or Attitude)
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
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
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
Persuasion: arguing for a change of belief or action – useful for
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
(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
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
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).
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,
Step 1: Practical arrangements
Identify an appropriate place (where you normally feel comfortable
Choose an appropriate set of tools: pens, pencils, calculator, computer,
Step 2: Start your first draft
When you are ready to write:
begin the drafting process by reviewing the results of your research
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
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.
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
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
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
The key structural components that are proposed for Site Reports are:
(4) Table of contents
(6) Chapters, Sections/Parts
(7) Headings and subheadings.
(8) Numbering systems.
(9) Bullet points
The following tips/questions could be useful when one is developing a structure or its
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
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.