One of the opportunities I have as a faculty member at OSU is to mentor students. I get to do this in a variety of ways–sit on committees, provide independent studies, review preliminary proposal, listen…I find it very exciting to see the change and growth in students’ thinking and insights when I work with students. I get some of my best ideas from them. Like today’s post…
I just reviewed several chapters of student dissertation proposals. These students had put a lot of thought and passion into their research questions. To them, the inquiry was important; it could be the impetus to change. Yet, the quality of the writing often detracted from the quality of the question; the importance of the inquiry; the opportunity to make a difference.
How does this relate to evaluation? For evaluations to make a difference, the findings must be used. This does not mean writing the report and giving it to the funder, the principal investigator, the program leader, or other stakeholders. Too many reports have gathered dust on someone shelf because they are not used. In order to be used, the report must be written so that they can be understood. The report needs to be written to a naive audience; as though the reader knows nothing about the topic.
When I taught technical writing, I used the mnemonic of the 5Cs. My experience is that if these concepts (all starting with the letter ) were employed, the report/paper/manuscript would be able to be understood by any reader.
The report needs to be written:
Clearly means not using jargon; using simple words; explaining technical words.
Coherently means having the sections of the report hang together; not having any (what I call) quantum leaps.
Concisely means using few words; avoiding long meandering paragraphs; avoiding the over use of prepositions (among other things).
Correctly means making sure that grammar and syntax are correct; subject/verb agreements; remembering that the word “data” is a plural word and takes a plural verb and plural articles.
Consistently means using the same word to describe the parts of your research; participants are participants all through the report, not subjects on page 5, respondents on page 11, and students on page 22.