When you develop a research or evaluation plan, it is essential to clarify the goal(s) of the project first. For conducting broader research projects, this means fine-tuning the research questions and goals for the study. For evaluating specific programs or policies, this means identifying the information required by the stakeholders of the program.
Before you develop plans for data collection and analysis, consider the following:
- What do you hope to learn from the data you collect?
- What are the intended outcomes of the program or intervention?
- Are those intended outcomes realistically achievable? Are they measurable or trackable?
- Who will be reviewing the study’s findings?
- How do you or they plan to use the information?
- Will the data be limited to internal use, or are there plans to publish the findings?
Identify & define outcomes
When you launch a new program or policy, you will often need to take time to clarify its intended outcomes or identify measurable definitions of those outcomes. Similarly, if you plan to expand or modify an established program, you may benefit from revisiting the original outcomes.
After you clarify the goals of a study or clearly define the program’s intended outcomes, you can then identify what types of data would be most appropriate for answering your evaluation questions.
To decide how to present your findings, it is critical to identify the audience for the evaluation report and understand how the data might be used. For more information, see Presenting and Reporting Data.
Data & privacy
Before you collect data, there are ethical and legal issues to consider. When you collect and present data on humans in general–especially students–it is important to be mindful of privacy law. For example, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) places limitations on the use of student’s educational information for research without the informed consent of students or their parents.
To learn more about data privacy considerations at MIT, see the website for the Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects.