Healthy Teen Network

Evaluation on the Cheap

Genevieve and Valerie

Genevieve Martínez-García & Valerie Sedivy

Conducting, managing, and reporting your evaluation efforts has become easier and more affordable thanks to many online tools available at low or no cost. Here is a list of useful online resources to help you manage your research resources, collect and analyze your data, and create beautiful diagrams to share your results with the world. This is not an exhaustive list;there are many more online tools like the ones listed below.

Need to chart your project and ideas?
LucidChart.com is a free, web-based design software that helps you create any type of diagram you need. There’s no need to struggle with text boxes and arrows getting out of control in your Word document. You can select from hundreds of icons and textbox styles, draw different types of arrows that align automatically, and change the color or font of any text box. It’s collaborative, so your peers can access your diagram and make modifications as well. You can export your chart in various formats to insert it into your document. Just create a free account and get charting! I’ve used LucidChart to create research study designs and flowcharts. You can also use it to create logic models, design a project diagram for proposals, and to visualize your programmatic efforts.

Need to conduct a literature review in minutes?
GoogleScholar, a member of the extensive Google family of products, helps you search for journal articles published in journals, books, and reports from all disciplines. Just type a key word and GoogleScholar does the rest. It also provides links to journal articles available free. Use multiple filters to focus your search and create libraries of favorite articles. It even helps you format your references by providing the citation for the article in three different formats. It also provides the Bibtex data needed to import the reference in any reference manager. You can also stay on top of the field by creating publication alerts delivered to your email.

Getting lost in research articles?
Qiqqa.com is one (of many) web based resource managers, similar to the famous EndNote or RefManager. You no longer have to read the title of hundreds of PDF articles saved on your computer to try to figure which one was the one that dealt with runaway youth. Qiqqa automatically organizes all of your PDFs in their cloud so you can access them anytime and anywhere. Just import the PDF into a free web account and the “sniffer” will search and enter the metadata for you (e.g., title, author, journal, etc.).  Then search by key words and find your article in seconds. It also allows you to highlight, make notes and then retrieve them; create in-text citations while you write your proposal; have an offline account for your tablet or phone; and create multiple libraries, although you need an upgraded account to get these features. There are others out there that do a good job with similar tasks as well, such as Mendeley and Zotero.

Need a cheap and fast way to collect data?
SurveyMonkey.com is well known online survey platform that allows you to collect survey data. But why stop at surveys? Many evaluators are using SurveyMonkey, or similar platforms, such as FluidSurveys.com, to collect fidelity monitoring data. Go mobile and take it with you on the road to enter data and visualize it immediately. You can administer their surveys through social media, gather and analyze qualitative data, and you can download it as a CSV or straight into SPSS for further analysis.

Drowning in interview data?
Dedoose.com is a web-based qualitative data analysis software that allows you to analyze all those focus group and interview data you are still trying to code by hand. Dedoose is available for a very low monthly fee, but you only pay during the month you use it. If you don’t need it, just stop paying. When you use it again, pay one month and regain access to your account and data. It’s easy to use and have many instructional videos online. It is a good alternative to much more expensive software like NUD*IST or MaxQDA.

Need to quickly visualize qualitative data?
Tagxedo.com is a word cloud generator on steroids. Sometime you just need a graphic to illustrate all the wonderful things people are saying about your program. Why rely on a boring table when a word cloud is more impactful? There are many free word cloud generators out there. What I like about Tagxedo is that you can customize fonts, colors and even the shape of the cloud. Below is a word cloud of this blog in the shape of a hand!

blog_wordmap

Feeling statistically adventurous?
R analysis software from the R-project.org is a free software for statistical computing and graphics generator. It is an open software, meaning that many people collaborated to create it and now they are sharing it with the world. I have personally not used it, but I have seen it make its way through the research community. It may not look as fancy as some other well known programs like SPSS or SAS, but it gets the job done, it’s free, and it has tons of tutorials online.

Still think that managing research and evaluation efforts on your own is a bit daunting?At Healthy Teen Network we will be happy to provide training, technical assistance, or evaluation support to help you design an evaluation plan suitable for your project. Healthy Teen Network research and evaluation staff have the capacity to conduct, and provide technical assistance on the broad scope of evaluation needs for adolescent health professionals:

  • needs and resource assessments using multiple data collection methods and approaches (i.e., secondary analysis, collecting new data);
  • qualitative data analysis;
  • design and implementation of evaluation plans;
  • design and implementation of quantitative and qualitative data collection tools and methods;
  • design and implementation of participant assessment and instructor observation protocols and tools;
  • data analysis including multivariate analysis and reporting; and
  • continuous quality improvement analysis and implementation.

Submit a service request form today to find out more about how we can support you to build your evaluation capacity.

Genevieve Martínez García, PhD, is a Senior Researcher and Valerie Sedivy, PhD, is a Senior Program Manager at Healthy Teen Network.

The Importance of Teen Voices: “Nothing about Us without Us”

judy.herrman

Judith W. Herrman, PhD, RN, ANEF

For some of us, remembering how teens think means only to conjure up our thoughts from a few years ago. For others, it feels like ancient history and requires some time and effort to truly represent the thoughts of a young person. But it is with these thoughts and perspectives that we often shape those policies and programs designed to foster health in today’s teens. Rather than simply guiding our initiatives based on our recollections of youth priorities, or worse yet, using our adult insights to decide what is “best” for today’s youth, we need to seek out authentic teen voices and ensure that teen perspectives guide our efforts.

Although we cannot be assured that all teens speak with one voice, nor can we shape policy based purely on teen insights, we do need to “try our best” and consider the voices and perspectives of youth in all we do. There are various ways to do this—from informally talking with youth on what they consider is in their best interest, to rigorous research that controls variables ensuring valid findings. Each pole of this spectrum has pros and cons as we generate programs and funnel our energies toward those initiatives that are most effective in helping teens.

Key to developing this youth-based framework is the art of listening. We may spend a lot of time talking to teens, and perhaps complaining when they don’t listen to us, rather than actively and intently listening to their thoughts and priorities. By listening to teens we may best hear their perspectives and concerns and, thereby, attend to the realities of current teen life.

Helping teens articulate their thoughts should also be a role for adult advocates. Current knowledge of brain development demonstrates that the maturing prefrontal cortex allows teens to put their thoughts into words. Assisting teens to find the words that accurately describe their thoughts and using other media, such as journaling, art, drama, dance, and creative expression, may help teens find their voices.

Research methods that may help us discover and use teen voices include surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Each of these allows us to “listen” to teens in a systematic way and to interpret their thoughts in accurate ways. Although these methods have their positive attributes, they also have limitations. For instance, teens often tire of long surveys, yielding inaccurate results. Teens may feel intimated during personal interviews or limited in their expression during a focus group based on the dynamics of the group. Creative methods to conduct youth-based research that reveal the candid voices of teens are being developed to allay these concerns. Using journaling via text messages or written word, open-ended sentence completion exercises, videos, photographs, and other expressions of voice through media are now more common ways to access the views of teens.

Just using teen-oriented methods is not always enough. We need to ensure that teens are part of the process such that the youth lens truly depicts the thoughts and perspectives of teens. Youth advisory boards, teen representation in program planning, and teen involvement that truly relies on their perspectives—rather than just allowing them to serve as “token voices”—are integral in developing youth-focused initiatives. The phrase, “Nothing about us without us,” can go a long way to ensure youth-based and youth-oriented programs and policies designed to promote teen health and speak to the realities of teen life in today’s world!

Judith W. Herrman, PhD, RN, ANEF, is a Professor, School of Nursing, University of Delaware and a Healthy Teen Network Board Member

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