New handbook to help you make sense of evidence

15 March 2018

Our new plain-English guide to making sense of evidence has just been released.

The guide, called Making sense of evidence: A guide to using evidence in policy, contains a wealth of information about using evidence in every stage of policy and programme design. It helps people working in the social sector to:

  • understand different types of evidence and sources of evidence
  • know what they can learn from evidence
  • appraise evidence and rate its quality
  • decide how to select and use evidence to best effect
  • take account of different cultural values and knowledge systems
  • be transparent about how you’ve used evidence in your work.

For example, did you know that there are three types of evidence? ‘Contextual’ evidence is factors from a local setting, ‘research’ evidence refers to facts and information, and ‘experiential’ evidence includes people’s experiences. It’s important to consider all three types of evidence when developing policy and programmes to ensure a balanced perspective.

Using evidence effectively is not just about how much evidence is available, but how credible and appropriate it is to a specific piece of work. Selecting and using evidence effectively and with integrity means not manipulating or cherry-picking evidence to suit or promote a desired outcome.

If you’re a policy practitioner, programme designer or evaluator, then this handbook is for you.

To accompany it, we’ve also produced a quick-read summary, which you can read here.

The new handbook is the second in a series of guides to help people in the social sector work better with evidence and do evaluations. The first, our award-winning* ‘Making sense of evaluation: A handbook for everyone’ was released last year and is available here.

We’d like to thank the Policy Project at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and other social sector experts from Treasury, Stats NZ, Victoria University of Wellington and the Ministry of Social Development for their cooperation and input into the new guide.


* Winner, Best Plain English Document (Public Sector) Award, 2017 Plain English Awards.

Last update: 15 Mar 2018