An evaluation plan is an integral part of a grant proposal that provides information to improve a project during development and implementation.
For small projects, the Office of the Vice President for Research can help you develop a simple evaluation plan. If you are writing a proposal for larger center grant, using a professional external evaluator is recommended.
Do all grant proposals require an evaluation plan?
Not all grant proposals require an evaluation plan. If one is required, it will generally be listed in the program announcement. Most often, larger, more involved grant proposal will require an evaluation plan, while a smaller, single-investigator proposals will not. If you are unsure whether your proposal requires an evaluation plan, please contact us.
What elements should be included in an evaluation plan?
There are two types of evaluation plans. The components of your evaluation plan may depend on the type you use. We can help you prepare and review both types of evaluation plans outlined below.
A formative evaluation does the following:
- Assesses initial and ongoing project activities
- Begins during project development and continues through implementation
- Provides new and sometimes unanticipated insights into improving the outcomes of the project
- Involves review by the principal investigator, the steering or governance committee, and either an internal or external evaluator (depending on grant requirements)
A summative evaluation does the following:
- Assesses the quality and success of a project in reaching stated goals
- Presents the information collected for project activities and outcomes
- Takes place after the completion of the project
- Involves review by the principal investigator, the steering or governance committee, either an internal or external evaluator, and the program director of the funding agency
All evaluation plans should identify both participants (those directly involved in the project) and stakeholders (those otherwise invested by credibility, control or other capital), and should include the relevant items developed in the evaluation process.
What does the evaluation process entail?
The evaluation process can be broken down into a series of steps, from preparation to implementation and interpretation.
- Develop a conceptual model of the project and identify key evaluation points. This ensures that all participants and stakeholders understand the project's structure and expected outcomes, and helps focus on the project’s most important elements.
- Create evaluation questions and define measurable outcomes. Outcomes may be divided into short-term and long-term, or defined by the more immediate number of people affected by the project versus the overall changes that might not occur until after the project’s completion.
- Develop an appropriate evaluation design. A successful evaluation both highlights the most useful information about the project’s objectives and addresses its shortcomings. In developing an evaluation design, you should first determine who will be studied and when, and then select a methodological approach and data collection instruments. The NSF-sponsored Online Evaluation Resource Library provides step-by-step instructions for developing an evaluation plan.
- Collect data.
- Analyze data and present to interested audiences.
See the National Science Foundation’s 2002 User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation for a more detailed explanation, also available in hard copy at OVPR or online at the NSF website.