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Often, evaluation is construed as part of a larger managerial or administrative process. Sometimes this is referred to as the planning-evaluation cycle. The distinctions between planning and evaluation are not always clear; this cycle is described in many different ways with various phases claimed by both planners and evaluators. Usually, the first stage of such a cycle -- the planning phase -- is designed to elaborate a set of potential actions, programs, or technologies, and select the best for implementation. Depending on the organization and the problem being addressed, a planning process could involve any or all of these stages: the formulation of the problem, issue, or concern; the broad conceptualization of the major alternatives that might be considered; the detailing of these alternatives and their potential implications; the evaluation of the alternatives and the selection of the best one; and the implementation of the selected alternative. Although these stages are traditionally considered planning, there is a lot of evaluation work involved. Evaluators are trained in needs assessment, they use methodologies -- like the concept mapping one presented later -- that help in conceptualization and detailing, and they have the skills to help assess alternatives and make a choice of the best one.

The evaluation phase also involves a sequence of stages that typically includes: the formulation of the major objectives, goals, and hypotheses of the program or technology; the conceptualization and operationalization of the major components of the evaluation -- the program, participants, setting, and measures; the design of the evaluation, detailing how these components will be coordinated; the analysis of the information, both qualitative and quantitative; and the utilization of the evaluation results.

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