Measuring Effectiveness and Outcomes Creating an Evaluation Plan
d. What steps are included in the data collection phase?

The first step involves actually using the data collection methods outlined in your evaluation plan. Plan for enough time and the appropriate personnel to collect the evaluation information.

Make sure you have developed and pilot tested the instruments so you can revise unclear questions or inadequate or confusing forms before you start collecting the real data. Not piloting the forms may result in incomplete, inaccurate or biased data. If you are using confidential questionnaires or interviews to get feedback from patients on their satisfaction with services, do you have enough responses from a diverse group of patients or do you need to acquire more?

Once all data are collected, the next step includes "cleaning" the data to check for accuracy and completeness. Cleaning does not mean discarding opinions you don't like or information that reflects problems with the program! Both positive and negative information are important during the analysis phase. The cleaning process means making sure the information is legible so that it can be analyzed, clarifying any information that is confusing, and locating any information that is missing, if possible.

The third step involves compiling and storing the data, usually in a software program such as a spreadsheet (e.g., Excel) or a database (such as ACCESS) that facilitates analysis by subgroups or across variables. Advances in computer and handheld technology have greatly simplified this process so that data can be entered, stored and analyzed in a fast and accurate manner, often allowing direct data entry during the data collection phase.