The Report Outline

To stay organized, you can use an outline that will direct your report writing. Although it represents just one of several possible formats, the following list offers a reliable one. A discussion of each section follows. Note that the Zoo in the Community evaluation (the sample report at the end of the book) uses a slightly different and abbreviated format because it was prepared for the project director, who already had many of the facts regarding the history and background of the program.

Outline of an Evaluation Report


Suggested Order for


Section Title

Writing the Sections

Section 1



Section 2

Purposes of the evaluation


Section 3

Background information


concerning the program

Section 4

Description of the evaluation


study and design

Section 5



Section 6

Discussion of the program and


its results

Section 7

Conclusions and



Section One: Summary

As a brief overview of the evaluation report, this section summarizes the purpose of the evaluation, gives a history of findings from previous evaluations (if any), and lists major conclusions and recommendations. Designed for the person too busy to read the full report, the summary should be no more than one or two pages long. Although the summary should appear at the beginning of the report, it is written last so that the evaluator has the benefit of all interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations he or she will make.

Section Two: Statement of the Evaluation's Purpose

This section could be a few paragraphs or a chapter, depending on your needs. It describes what the evaluation did and did not intend to accomplish. In effect, this section describes the assignment that the evaluator accepted, and as such it could probably be prepared immediately after the evaluator accepts the assignment. A draft of this statement can then be agreed upon by all interested parties and kept on file.

Section Two stems from the evaluator's program description and addresses the following questions:

Why was the evaluation undertaken? What questions were asked?

Who sponsored (paid for) the evaluation or program?

Section Three: Background Information

This section sets the program in context, describing how the program was initiated and what it was supposed to do. If the evaluation audience consists of individuals who have no knowledge of the program, this section needs to be detailed. But if people who are familiar with the program will read the evaluation report, then Section Three can be a brief setting down of facts "for the record."

A draft of Section Three developed in the planning stages of the evaluation will ensure that the evaluator has a clear grasp of the program, including what is and is not supposed to be accomplished. The draft could then be circulated to program personnel for their comments. Typical content might address the following questions:

What was the origin of the program? (That is, what were the reasons for initiating the program?)

What are the standards and goals of the program?

What did the predecessor to this program look like? (What were its experiences and successes?)

Who makes up the program (faculty, trainees, and others)?

What are the characteristics of the program (materials, technology, and activities)?

Section Four: Description of the Evaluation Study

Section Four describes the methodology of the evaluation. The description includes the evaluation design for each evaluation question. In order to engender faith in the conclusions of the evaluation, you need to include every detail about how the information was obtained. Include a discussion of the evaluation model used (discrepancy, goal-free, or other), the sample, and the instruments, plus how you collected and analyzed the data.

Depending on the model you followed, the nature of the design reporting may change. For example, if you followed a goal-based model, your collection and analysis procedures would be described in terms of their aim at objectives presented in the program description or proposal. If, however, you were following a goal-free model, you would describe data collection instances and opportunities that arose during the evaluation. Interpretations and conclusions would be based on objective attainment for the goal-based model or on key accomplishments and shortcomings for the goal-free model.

A draft of Section Four should be written as the evaluation is being planned so that it can be circulated to the program personnel for their comments. Obviously, obtaining agreement beforehand about what will constitute a fair measure of the program will increase the credibility of the results.

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