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Magenta Book – HM Treasury guidance on evaluation for Central Government (UK)

“The Magenta Book is HM Treasury guidance on evaluation for Central Government, but will also be useful for all policy makers, including in local government, charities and the voluntary sectors. It sets out the key issues to consider when designing and managing evaluations, and the presentation and interpretation of evaluation results. It describes why thinking about evaluation before and during the policy design phase can help to improve the quality of evaluation results without needing to hinder the policy process.

The book is divided into two parts.

Part A is designed for policy makers. It sets out what evaluation is, and what the benefits of good evaluation are. It explains in simple terms the requirements for good evaluation, and some straightforward steps that policy makers can take to make a good evaluation of their intervention more feasible.

Chapter 1

Key issues in policy evaluation


What is evaluation and what benefits can it bring?

What factors affect how a policy should be evaluated?

How evaluation fits into the policy cycle

Chapter 2

Identifying the right evaluation for the policy


How was the policy delivered? Process evaluation

What difference did the policy make? Impact evaluation

Did the benefits justify the costs? Economic evaluation

Why did what happened occur?

What type of evaluation for the policy?

How do evaluation questions relate to the underlying “logic” of the intervention?

Factors affecting the choice of evaluation approach

Chapter 3

Building impact evaluation into policy design


Thinking about impact evaluation when designing the policy

The role of comparison groups in identifying the impact of a policy

Chapter 4

What practical issues need to be taken into account when designing an evaluation


The main steps in the evaluation process

How to ensure an evaluation meets the requirements: governance and quality control

Timing of the evaluation

What types of resources are likely to be needed?

What level of resource should be dedicated to the evaluation

Concluding remarks

Part B is more technical, and is aimed at analysts and interested policy makers. It discusses in more detail the key steps to follow when planning and undertaking an evaluation and how to answer evaluation research questions using different evaluation research designs. It also discusses approaches to the interpretation and assimilation of evaluation evidence.

Chapter 5

The stages of an evaluation


The steps involved in planning and undertaking an evaluation

Chapter 6

Setting out the evaluation framework


Theory-based evaluation

Reviewing the existing evidence

Systematic review

Rapid evidence assessment

Meta-evaluation and meta-analysis

Making sense of existing and new evidence: simulation modelling

Chapter 7

Data collection


What is monitoring data and how can it contribute to evaluation?

New data collection

Designing data collection tools

Ethical and data protection considerations

Chapter 8

Process evaluation, action research and case studies


Evaluation to understand the implementation and delivery of policy

Process evaluation

Action research

Case studies

Why undertake a process evaluation, action research or case study?

Research methods to support process evaluation, action research and case studies

Choosing research methods

Research methods

Chapter 9

Empirical impact evaluation


Introducing empirical impact evaluation

When are empirical approaches possible?

Designing policies for effective evaluation

Power of design

Strategies for analysing quasi experimental data

Thinking critically about the textbook techniques

“Constrained designs”

Chapter 10

Drawing together and reporting evaluation evidence 125


How evaluation evidence may be used

Drawing together the evaluation evidence

Setting the evaluation results in a broader context

Future decisions and roll-out; scaling-up

Implications for evaluation planning

Reporting and disseminating findings

The Magenta Book will be supported by a wide range of forthcoming supplementary guidance containing more detailed guidance on particular issues, such as statistical analysis and sampling. Until these are available please refer to the relevant chapters of the original Magenta Book.

Download The Magenta Book in PDF format



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