Ask the OEIE Evaluator
Ask the OEIE Evaluator (pdf) is a regular series in the Tuesday Letter in which OEIE staff respond to your frequently asked questions about evalutation. Have a question? Email Allison Teeter at email@example.com.
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Creating Stakeholder Friendly Documents: Data Visualization
A variety of data visualization techniques can be used to explain a process, present results, or demonstrate impact. In this installment, we discuss how to create an easy-to-follow one-page graphic timeline.
Q: How do I create a stakeholder friendly graphic that helps demonstrate my program’s impact?
While comprehensive reports often contain tables, charts, graphs or other visuals, creating a one-page graphic representation of your program may resonate with readers more strongly, especially if you are trying to illustrate an entire process, collection of activities, or program outcomes and impacts. There
are numerous data visualization techniques that allow for the presentation of large amounts of data, in a concise, easy-to-read, visually pleasing format. Examples of these techniques include word clouds, GIS maps, and social network analysis, but one of the easiest one-page data visualizations for you to create and for stakeholders to follow is a data visualization timeline. This type of graphic conveys a snapshot of a program to an audience.
When creating a graphic timeline it is important to first determine the timeframe of interest as well as whom the timeline’s audience will be. Display the results to pertinent questions the audience would want answered. Ask yourself which data is most important to them? Or what is most important to represent or highlight about your program to stakeholders? The following steps will guide you through the process.
Step 1 – Collect data such as participation numbers, number of programs offered, pre- and post-assessment results that measure knowledge/skills gained, or post-assessment results measuring participant satisfaction.
Step 2 – Analyze data for milestones, themes, or significant findings. Consider using quotes from participants to highlight specific activities, knowledge/skills gained or satisfaction with a program.
Step 3 – Use software that is easily accessible. Templates for creating timelines can be found in Word, Excel, Publisher, and PowerPoint.
Step 4 – Create your timeline. Use text boxes and graphic elements to highlight milestones, themes, and significant findings either by using the shapes and text boxes provided in the template you’ve chosen or by adding additional graphic elements. Below are some additional things to keep in mind as you begin to construct your timeline:
- Document size – make sure that the data will fit with easy readability.
- Timeframe – timelines can span a week, a month, quarters, a year, or years.
- Use of basic shapes and connectors – located in the insert tab of a word document.
- Use appropriate colors – if your program has a logo, make sure that you use those colors or complimentary ones.
- Be consistent with your use of fonts, colors, bullets, and graphics.
- Adding pictures from activities personalizes the timeline.
- Allow your creative side to show – utilize various shapes and colors or bold text to emphasize certain aspects of your timeline.
An example of a data visualization timeline is provided on the Extension Evaluation Resources website. We created this graphic in Word by inserting Shapes, SmartArt, and Text Boxes into a blank document. This one-page document highlights all 11 Program Focus Teams (PFTs), and documents things such as participation rates, number of programs, and impacts/outcomes using sample data.
Remember data visualizations can be stand-alone documents or accompany reports to highlight findings. You may also find that your visual encourages stakeholders to read the full report. The ultimate goal is to create a one-page document that provides your audience with a complete picture of the program or activity with data that is important to them.