Thumbnail Description

A ’thumbnail’ is a brief description (short like a thumb nail). 

This option uses existing information to document the current understanding of the situation your project/program/policy has been developed to address (both the problems or needs and the strengths) and to document the intended (or actual) activities, outcomes, and impacts, and what resources will be needed (or have been allocated). 


Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)

This option is used to define what is to be evaluated.

All evaluations should include a thumbnail description of some sort.

Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)

This option can be used either at the planning stage of an initiative, during implementation or after implementation.

It can be done by a solo evaluator or in a group.

It can be done as a low resource option using existing documents or using more time and expertise to develop a more detailed definition of what is being evaluated.

If an initiative is complex, has changed over time and/or is likely to be understood differently by different stakeholders consider investing more time and resources to ensure that different perspectives are considered when developing the definition.

Different versions of the initial description may suit different stakeholders and different communication purposes, think about whether it would be useful to have succinct and more detailed versions of the initial description.



  • BetterEvaluation initial description template sets out 8 questions about your project/program/policy which can be answered initially from existing data and then refined after more data have been collected or retrieved. 



Updated: 21st August 2014 - 3:15pm
This Option is useful for:


Anonymous's picture
holly cooper

can a thumbnail brief be in complete sentences?

Patricia Rogers's picture
Patricia Rogers

Yes, it's often a good idea to use complete sentences for a thumbnail sketch so it can be easily understood and remembered.

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