Policy Analysis or Evaluation Report Format
Because the primary audience for policy analysis, policy evaluation and stakeholder analysis are specific clients or community partners, the format of Capstone reports using these modes will vary according to partners’ needs. In general, policy analysis and evaluation reports will have a more professional and less academic format. Rather than “chapters,” these reports will have sections. Final reports will likely include Executive Summaries and Appendices, and may include PowerPoint presentations, brochures, briefs, and website content. Fitzpatrick, Sanders and Worthen (2011) recommend the following format, though again the final format should be tailored to the client or partner’s needs.
1. Executive Summary
Typically 1-2 pages, this summarizes the contents in the main body of the report. It should very briefly describe the purpose of the study and how data were obtained. The summary should also include the most important findings, conclusions, and recommendations, often with major findings or recommendations bulleted or numbered.
2. Introduction: Purpose of the Study
The introductory section should thoroughly describe the rationale for the evaluation or analysis. It should address: Why did you conduct this study? What is it intended to accomplish? What questions was it intended to answer? There should be some information to indicate the scope of your study, including definitions of terms, and limitations that affected the collection, analysis or interpretation of information.
3. Focus of Evaluation or Analysis
This section describes the program to be evaluated or policy to be analyzed. It should present a brief history of the program or policy (when and why it began and who initiated it), program/policy goals and intended outcomes, a description of the staffing or resources for the program or policy, a description of clients served and their characteristics, and any important contextual issues, such as location, oversight, legislation, and regulations.
Any previous evaluations or reports of the program or policy should also be summarized, including how these previous efforts differ from your own.
This section might also include a logic model or program theory, or a summary of one (with the full model in the appendix). It may also be useful to include a list of the information needed for the evaluation or analysis.
4. Brief Overview of Evaluation/Analysis Procedures
This section describes your methodology: What kind of data collection procedure? What instruments were used? What type of sampling procedure? What type of analysis or interpretation is most appropriate for your study’s questions and goals?
Summaries of the procedures and methods are sufficient. In this section, generally explain where the data came from and how they were obtained and analyzed. Specific instruments (surveys, questions) or protocols (focus groups, observations, interviews) should be included as Appendices.
5. Results and Discussion
This section provides a complete summary of the study’s findings and provides a basis for the conclusions and recommendations in the next section. Any tables, figures, quotations, and/or lists should be included.
Often, this section is organized around headings related to the specific findings of the study. These findings and headings should follow from the questions posed/purposes of the study.
6. Conclusions and Recommendations
This section should summarize the study’s major findings, often listed at the beginning of the section. These conclusions must follow from the results presented in the previous section.
The section should also synthesize and discuss the study’s findings. What do they mean? How do these findings correspond to the program’s or policy’s goals or intended outcomes? How do they compare with findings from previous, related studies?
Fitzpatrick, Sanders and Worthen (2011) recommend providing both Strengths and Weaknesses of the studied program or policy.
Finally, the report should conclude with Recommendations. These should build on findings and conclusions to recommend next steps for clients/partners. They may include recommendations to continue or expand the program/policy or perhaps to revise or discontinue. These recommendations should be general in nature. Specific recommendations to specific individuals or units should be directed toward those individuals in a side report or memo. They may be summarized here, but the audience is broader than just one person or unit.
More detailed information about sampling, data collection methods, and analysis should be included to help those who are interested in replicating or doing further study. This should include discussion of what specific statistical or narrative analysis was used and why.
Complete transcripts of interviews, observation logs, data tabulations, survey instruments, interview protocols, or other information not included in the main body of the report should also be appended.