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High Quality Evaluation Reports

The most important outcome of an evaluation is that it is used to inform decisions and improve USAID projects and programs. A key factor in using evaluation findings is having a well-written, succinct report that clearly and quickly communicates credible findings and conclusions, including easy-to-understand graphics and consistent formatting. USAID staff charged with managing evaluations have an important role to play in ensuring that every evaluation report USAID receives and accepts meets the Agency’s evaluation quality standards.

USAID Evaluation Report guidance is designed to help USAID staff who are charged with managing evaluations and to help the teams they supervise consistently produce high quality reports that are consistent with USAID standards outlined in the Evaluation Policy and ADS 203. One of the most important things an evaluation manager can do in this regard is make sure that every evaluation team is aware of USAID’s evaluation report standards and guidance at the start of the evaluation process. Three key documents should be shared with evaluation teams in their first meeting or communications with USAID. These include USAID’s “How To Note” on Preparing Evaluation Reports, which is featured on this page as well as USAID’s Sample Evaluation Report Template and companion Sample Evaluation Report Cover. Teams should also be provided with USAID’s Evaluation Report Review Checklist (which is the focus of a separate page in this kit) and made aware that USAID may use this checklist to review and provide them with feedback on the adequacy of their draft report. Teams can be encouraged to use the checklist as a guide when they are drafting their reports.

Sample Trade Related Evaluation Reports

This resource box includes a number of USAID trade-related evaluation reports. Each of these evaluations was ranked at a high level in a review of trade evaluations carried out as part of the Aid For Trade: Delivering Results evaluation in 2010

As this guidance makes clear, evaluation reports should be no more than 30 pages in length, not including any annexes and three to four pages for an Executive Summary. This should be sufficient to provide a summary of the evaluation purpose and approach, key findings, conclusions and recommendations. Additional detail can be provided as annexes.

USAID Evaluation Report Outline

Executive Summary (3-4 pages)

  1. Evaluation Purpose and Questions (1-2 pages)
  2. Project or Program Background (1-3 pages)
  3. Evaluation Methods and Limitations (1-3 pages, plus annex)
  4. Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations (15-25 pages)

Annexes

  1. Evaluation Statement of Work
  2. Evaluation Methods and Limitations
  3. Data Collection Instruments
  4. Sources of Information
    1. List of Persons Interviewed
    2. Bibliography of Documents Reviewed
    3. Databases
    4. Other Sources
  5. Disclosure of Any Conflict of Interest
  6. Statement of Differences [only if applicable]

Evaluation teams need to be aware, at the beginning of the evaluation process, that findings, conclusions and recommendations should each be presented separately and the progression should be clear and easy to follow in relation to each of the evaluation questions included in the Evaluation SOW. There should be no recommendations in an evaluation report that cannot be traced back to previously stated conclusions and underlying findings.

Evaluation teams should also be award, early on, that there are alternative ways of organizing a report section on Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations, as illustrated below. Generally speaking for evaluations that address several related questions, Approach 1, in the table below may be appropriate. The more heterogeneous the list of question is for an evaluation, the more likely it is that Approach 2 might be useful. Regardless of the method of presentation, findings should be presented on a sex disaggregated basis and important differences in men and women’s participations and benefits should be discussed.

Approach 1 Approach 2

Findings

  1. Question 1
  2. Question 2
  3. Question 3

Conclusions

Recommendations

Question 1

  1. Findings
  2. Conclusions
  3. Recommendations

Question 2

  1. Findings
  2. Conclusions
  3. Recommendations

USAID staff who are involved in managing evaluations have an equally important role to play in facilitating an in-house peer technical review of each draft evaluation report USAID receives. Staff who are asked to review evaluation reports and provide comments provided to evaluation teams will benefit from the same type of briefing that teams are given. Reviewers need to be familiar with USAID’s evaluation standards (in Appendix 1 of the USAID Evaluation Policy), USAID’s evaluation report guidance (in the “How To Note: Preparing Evaluation Reports) and with USAID’s Evaluation Report Review Checklist.

Over the past half-decade, several reviews of USAID evaluations have been carried out using variations on the Evaluation Report Review Checklist included in this kit section. These reviews, including one carried out for a sample of trade projects, indicated that most evaluation reports could be improved if evaluation teams and those who review evaluations were to compare reports to USAID standards using this checklist earlier in the evaluation process, including making the checklist available to evaluation team at the start of an evaluation. A short summary of USAID’s review of a sample of trade evaluations using the checklist is provided on this page.