Where to start with choosing methods and processes
Often when people think about how to do an evaluation, they focus on choosing which methods they are going to use for the evaluation design tasks such as collecting, analysing and synthesising data.
However, there are a number of tasks to be done around the upfront framing work of evaluation, reporting and supporting use. These are important to do well, and as with the design tasks, there are a range of methods and processes to choose from.
For any task in evaluation, the choice of method or process will come down to what is appropriate for your particular situation.
This means paying attention to the nature of what is being evaluated, the nature of the evaluation, the opportunities and limitations at the time, as well as who will use the evaluation, and for what purpose.
Your planning should clarify the purposes of the evaluation and the most important questions it needs to answer. Then you can choose methods and processes to answer those questions, or work with an expert who can provide advice or develop an evaluation design.
It’s important to think through the methods and processes you will use for doing all the tasks in an evaluation from the beginning to ensure a good evaluation, even if you have to change the details later.
To help you find and choose the right methods and processes on the BetterEvaluation website, use the Rainbow Framework.
How to use the Rainbow Framework to choose methods and processes
The Rainbow Framework was created to make it easy to learn about the different evaluation methods and processes that can be used to undertake each evaluation task, and to develop a better understanding of when to use them.
The Rainbow Framework has information on more than 300 evaluation methods and processes, and more than 20 evaluation approaches curated and co-created with our international partners and contributors.
It organises all the steps in evaluation into 7 clusters of tasks: Manage, Define, Frame, Describe, Understand Causes, Synthesise, and Report and Support Use.
We suggest you explore all the different clusters of tasks to find methods and processes suitable for the whole of your evaluation process.
The Rainbow Framework is freely available on the BetterEvaluation website, and can be viewed online or downloaded as a series of PDF documents.
More detailed guidance on choosing evaluation methods is available here.
Choosing the evaluation methods to suit your circumstances
Once you've clarified what you're evaluating, and spent some time with the Rainbow Framework, you will notice that not all methods and processes are appropriate for all circumstances.
For this reason, we've included advice for choosing and advice for using the methods and processes in the Rainbow Framework. You will also find examples of how people have used the methods and processes in practice and links to further resources and guidance.
Our goal is to be able to provide evidence-based guidance and decision support for choosing all evaluation methods and processes. The research needed to produce this evidence is still being done, and you can be part of it. Help us build this knowledge by contributing content to the BetterEvaluation website.
Ready to take the next step in choosing evaluation methods and processes? Follow one of the pathways below.
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BetterEvaluation is committed to building evidence about how to choose and use evaluation methods and processes appropriately. Our goal is to have complete coverage of all methods and processes. Organisational supporters can help us continue this important work.