Department of Nutrition

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The Grant Game: Evaluation

Both research and project proposals include Evaluation–another one of their crucial components. Lack of evaluation in the grant game is like “Go to Jail, and if you pass GO, do not collect $200”, in the game of Monopoly. In this section you will learn what Evaluation is, when to plan for it, and the similarities and differences between evaluation in research and project proposals.

Your funding agency will want to know how well you accomplished your proposal objectives. Therefore, they will want to evaluate or measure the effectiveness of your project. Program proposals and research proposals handle evaluation differently. Remember from our earlier discussion: Research Proposals contain a section labeled Results and Program Proposals contain a section labeled Evaluation. These are the places for identifying how you will evaluate your project or study.

There is one rule, however, common to both project proposals and research proposals: Always plan your Evaluation at the beginning of your proposal.

Look first at Evaluation in Research Proposals

The Results section is the place in your proposal where you indicate how you will measure how well you were able to do what you proposed. This measure usually takes the form of a statistical analysis of data you collect. booksThere are a number of books available which describe statistical and other methods of evaluating data. If you write a research proposal, you should consult these books or a statistician to determine which formulas and procedures are most appropriate for the methodological design you will use and the type of data you will collect.

Evaluation of project proposals can provide two types of evaluative information.

  1. Content Evaluation (or Summative).  Conducted at the end of the project.
  2. Process Evaluation (or Formative).  Conducted during the project.

Consider each type of evaluation separately.

Content Evaluation (or Summative)

This type of evaluation answers what we call “bottom line” questions. You gather data at the END of the project period. Then, you answer the question “Did you accomplish your objectives?” If so, how effectively did you accomplish them? Look at this proposal example and see what content questions can be asked in evaluation.

You are proposing to develop a year-long agency service program so 100 elderly persons can receive the specified service at least once a day. What questions can you plan at the Beginning of your project to ask at the end of your project to help you measure how well you accomplished your objective?

Content-related Sample Questions

  • Did 100 elderly people receive the specified service daily?
  • Did the program run throughout the year?
  • Did the service provided meet generally accepted standards of practice?

Once you know what questions you need to ask during the evaluation phase, you need to make sure you will have the data necessary to answer those questions. Now, return to our three questions about the elderly self-service provision project. Let’s plan data collection methods for each one.

Question #1: Did 100 elderly people access the specified service for themselves daily?

Data Collection Issues:

  1. You can keep rosters or lists of clients.
  2. Check off each client each time the specified service is provided.

At the end of the year you have data to prove you served (at least) 100 people.

Question #2: Did the Program run throughout the year?

Data Collection Issues:

  1. Keep a list of steps in assistance given to clients for each day.
  2. Save lists of supplies and receipts for supplies.
  3. Keep payroll records of program employees.
  4. Clip newspaper articles about the program.

At the end of the year you will have records to show your program ran all year.

Question #3: Was the service provided according to generally recognized standards?

Data Collection Issues:

  1. Keep lists of steps in service provision for all days of services throughout the year.
  2. Show they were planned by a qualified service provider.
  3. Document that the list of steps included all necessary to meet generally accepted standards of practice.

At the end of the year you will have records to show that your service provision was consistent with generally accepted standards. That ends the lesson in Content or Summative Evaluation.

Process Evaluation (or Formative)

This type of evaluation answers questions about your procedures or the project’s processes. This evaluation consists of on-going activities conducted throughout the life of the project.

Process Evaluation Questions

  • “How” did you go about doing what you proposed?
  • Was it an efficient approach?
  • Did you discover better ways of doing things?

Let’s look at the previous example of the elderly self-service provision program to see what process questions can be asked! Remember, you are proposing to develop a year long service provision program, so 100 persons can access the specified service daily. Since Process Evaluation is done throughout the project, it deals with . . .

  1. How you implemented your project
  2. Whether your methods worked
  3. What problems you encountered
  4. How you solved the problems
  5. What you would change about the program.

How can you structure your PROCESS evaluation? By asking the following questions!

Question #1: How did you implement your project?

  • Did you already have service provision space available?
  • If not, how did you arrange for space?
  • How difficult was it to make these arrangements?
  • Did you have to work through other organizations?
  • Did your project run on schedule? If not, what scheduling problems did you encounter and how did you handle them?


Question #2: Did your client recruitment methods work?

  • Did you use another social service agency’s rolls to identify needy clients?
  • Did you have difficulty locating 100 participants?
  • Were there significantly more needy clients than you were able to serve?

Question #3: What other problems did you encounter?

  • Were there transportation problems (i.e., were some needy clients unable to participate because of lack of transportation)?
  • Did your clients have other service provision or related problems?
  • Were supply costs higher than anticipated?

Question #4: What were the best ways to handle your problems?

  • Were you able to circumvent transportation problems by using car pools?
  • Could you refer clients with multiple problems to other service agencies?
  • Did you arrange for supplies to be purchased in bulk to reduce supply costs?

Question #5: What would you change about the program?

  • Would you double the size of your budget?
  • Would you add a van program to deliver the specified service to shut-ins?
  • Would you move the program to larger quarters?

The Evaluation Rule

Now you know what content and process questions to ask, so how do you use these questions to design a good project evaluation? You follow the Evaluation Rule!

The Evaluation Rule: The Best Evaluations use a Combination of Process (Formative) and Content (Summative) Procedures.

You want to ask questions about . . .

  1. The “bottom line”
  2. How you get to the “bottom line”

Final Reminder:

A proposal’s evaluation component is crucial. You can sabotage a fine proposal if it lacks an evaluation section or if the section is written haphazardly or is poorly thought out. Evaluation tells you how you will measure your project’s effectiveness or research results. It requires data collection and analysis. In research proposals, indicate how you will measure and describe your results using statistical tests.

In project proposals, indicate how you will measure:

  1. Whether you attained your individual objectives, also known as the “bottom line” or content (summative) evaluation; and
  2. How you got to the “bottom line”, also known as process (formative) evaluation.

Data collection is crucial for evaluation of both research and project proposals. Therefore, plan for it in your proposals and before you ever begin your project or research.


This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number T79MC09805, Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Health Nutrition, $223,929, 50% funded by the University of Tennessee, Department of Nutrition. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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