You can develop checklists to guide you through
a thorough evaluation. At the simplest level,
you need to look over the document for:
- correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation;
- inclusion of appropriate devices, such as
dating, page numbering, and consistency;
- visual appeal of the document;
- consistency and effectiveness of layout and
typographical devices (also be sure they are
not overused); and
- odd shapes (e.g., hourglass effect) or line
breaks that inadvertently separate parts of
a name or date in a way that reduces clarity.
|Another simple way to
evaluate your document is to include a box at the
bottom of the page that says:
|We try to write clearly. If you have a suggestion
on how to improve the clarity of this document,
please send it to us at...
|Outcome or Process
Evaluation of the process used to develop a product
is called "process evaluation"; evaluation of
the effectiveness of a document is called "outcome
evaluation." Either method may be used to evaluate
a particular document.
Easy process measures include counting the number
of copies distributed, meetings attended, or articles
printed. This information will tell you how a
program is operating and whether the target audience
receives your information.
Extending a step beyond process measures, outcome
evaluation provides information about the quality
rather than the quantity of response.
The measures may be self-reported (e.g., interviews
with members of the target audience) or be observed
(e.g., changes in clinic visits or disease morbidity).
Comparisons between a control group and the target
audience are desirable.
|Focus groups are especially
helpful in evaluating frequently requested documents
(e.g., health information brochures and forms).
These groups are composed of individuals who share
traits with the planned recipients of your document.
Focus group members can give you excellent feedback
about your document before it is finalized.
A simple but meaningful way to be certain readers
will understand your document is to interview
some of them. Such "protocol testing" requires
one-on-one interviews with representative readers.
This testing generally requires interviewing from
three to nine people to find out what each sentence
means to them.
|Before and After
According to Making Health Communication
Programs Work: A Planner's Guide (NCI), true
outcome evaluation requires a "before" and "after"
version of the document. This type of evaluation
is routinely used for health brochures and documents
to be distributed to a broad audience. Outcome
evaluation usually involves comparing the target
audience's awareness, attitudes, and behavior
before and after reading the document. These are
quantitative measures that allow you to draw conclusions
about the program's effect.
SMOG (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook) Readability
|Many tools are available
to measure the readability of your document. One
is the SMOG Readability Index. It is a simple technique
that can be used to assess the grade level of a
document. First, count the number of words with
three or more syllables in a chain of 30 sentences
in your draft. Then look up the approximate grade
level on the following chart.
Polysyllabic Word Count
* Developed by Harold C. McGraw,
Office of Educational Research, Baltimore County
Schools, Towson, Maryland.
You can also evaluate your document by using
your computer software to provide some statistics,
such as the total number of words:
- "Tools"/"Wordcount" in MS Word
- "File/Properties"/"Information" in WordPerfect.