An evaluator can collect important data through the review of existing documents and previously collected data (see also the Collect and Retrieve Data task). By reviewing existing documents an evaluator can access subjective information (through logs and diaries), information on the project (through project records), and independently produced information (through government and international agency reports) relating to the sector or project aims. The document review process provides a systematic procedure for identifying, analyzing, and deriving useful information from existing documents.
Document review can reduce duplication. Often information required for an evaluation has already been collected for other purposes. Ministries, government agencies, NGOs, and other organizations often produce valuable reports that you can use to supplement your own data collection. Document review can assist in triangulating findings collected through other evaluation options, for example interview and observations.
An evaluator may review existing documents for the following reasons: to gather background information, to determine if implementation of the program reflects the program plan, when you need information to help you develop other data collection tools for evaluation and when you need data to answer what and how many evaluation questions commonly collected by other agencies.
To explore related options below head to the task page Collect and/or Retrieve Data
Project records: Documents developed by the project including periodic project reports (monthly, biannual, annual), baseline data, needs assessments, internal and external evaluations, technical advisor input reports, and field reports.
Logs and diaries:
Documents kept by project personnel or beneficiaries that records data in a real-time and ongoing manner. Logs may capture school attendance, numbers of field visits by extension officers, frequency of rain during a month. Diaries can allow for more personal and reflective comments and may be more retrospective than logs, although data is generally recorded as close to events as possible.
Reports on other projects: Other projects related to the initiative being evaluated can be useful to review. Types of reports for other projects are similar to those that can be reviewed for the project itself: periodic project reports (monthly, biannual, annual), baseline data, needs assessments, internal and external evaluations, technical advisor input reports, and field reports.
Government agencies often collect statistics that can be of use to evaluators. Data is compiled by national statistical agencies as well as international bodies working in the project’s particular sector (for example, UNICEF compiles statistics that are useful for education projects http://www.unicef.org/statistics/