Using the findings from evaluation and research studies that were previously conducted on the same or closely related areas. Looking at previous evaluation reports on the area you are interested in is an important first step for evaluation planning. It can give you an indication of what to measure and the types of data that is able to be collected, as well as giving you an idea of any gaps in the previous research that should have been filled and what problems previous researchers and evaluators encountered that you might have to negotiate.
In discussing the use of previously undertaken weak evaluations of community crime prevention programs by the Australian Institute of Criminology, Morgan and Homel argue that:
"When viewed collectively, these ‘weak’ evaluations still have the potential to provide valuable information for decision makers (Eck 2002). Eck recommends that for internal evaluations and small-scale projects with relatively modest objectives, there is arguably greater value in focusing on more thorough analysis of the problem, being more explicit in terms of the theory about how an intervention should work and then testing that hypothesis by conducting simple pre-post and short-term time series studies to measure whether the intervention is having the desired effect. That way, projects can be refined until the desired outcomes are observed. Similarly, Morgan et al. (2012) argued that the accumulation of these weaker studies, despite their obvious drawbacks, can still provide a valuable evidence base about the implementation and possible impact of otherwise untested initiatives." (Morgan and Homel, 2013: 10)
The Development and Utility of a Program Theory: Lessons from an Evaluation: This article looks at the use and development of program theory in human service organisations, concluding that policy and practice need to be informed by current knowledge and understanding and that practitioners should be familiar with the findings of good quality research.
Evaluating crime prevention: Lessons from large-scale community crime prevention programs: This article by Anthony Morgan and Peter Homel of the Australian Institute of Criminology discusses the importance of evaluation in crime prevention. They argue that previous evaluations of community crime prevention programs have been of a low standard, and examine some of the factors contributing to this. They give several recommendations for best practice in this area of evaluation in light of previous evaluations.
- Impact Evaluation Databases: Can You Find What You’re Looking For?: This blog post from William Savedoff of the Center for Global Development provides a list of databases that can be used for finding impact evaluations, particularly those that include studies that attribute impact to particular programs, interventions or policies and whose findings are relevant to low- and middle-income countries.
Morgan, A. and Homel, P. (2013, July). 'Evaluating crime prevention: Lessons from large-scale community crime prevention programs' in Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice (no. 458) pp.441-460.