The information offered by an evaluator to stakeholders to guide or direct their decision making constitutes technical advice. Several terms describe different types of technical advice included in evaluation reporting. It is helpful to differentiate between conclusion, recommendation, suggestion, issue, concern, and opinion.
Conclusion: the answer to a specific question included in the evaluation design, or an interpretation of outcomes related to a particular information need. A conclusion must be logically consistent with available evidence, as well as relevant knowledge and experience. Sometimes the evaluation will conclude that the question cannot be answered by the available evidence, knowledge and experience. If this is the case, it should be clearly stated along with a description of what would be required to answer the question.
Recommendation: a statement offered as worthy of acceptance or approval by stakeholders. Based on available evidence, knowledge and experience the evaluator is saying that it is reasonable for stakeholders to adopt the action included in the statement. It is essential to keep in mind, however, that as stakeholders consider the recommendation in light of other factors, stakeholders may decide reasonably not to adopt the recommendation. If stakeholders are involved in the interpretation of evaluation results before the report is prepared, the report is less likely to contain recommendations which are not adopted.
Suggestion: a statement offered for consideration because it is associated with something of interest in the evaluation. Although the evaluator deems this information as desirable or fitting for consideration (otherwise it would not be included as advice), the evaluator believes further study is needed before stating the information in the form of a recommendation.
Issue: a statement of something about which reasonable persons can disagree. Sometimes the attempt to answer a specific question during the evaluation uncovers different perspectives about it, each of which could be regarded as an answer to the question. Detailed description of the perspectives, and the values associated with each, is valuable advice, even when no specific suggestion or recommendation for action can be supported by available evidence, knowledge or experience. This description may help stakeholders resolve or reduce any conflict created by the issue.
Concern: a statement of something which is important to someone because it poses a threat, or it is believed that it will lead to an undesirable consequence, or empirical verification is desired. Confirmation or disconfirmation of a concern, or illumination of a concern, is valuable advice for stakeholders.
Opinion: a statement of plausible consequences of studying or not studying a suggestion; adopting or not adopting a recommendation; confronting or ignoring an issue or concern.