Comprehensiveness reflects the fact of seeing each part as a function of the whole, of not isolating a particular aspect from its context. According to the Webster Dictionary, to be comprehensive is to cover a matter completely or nearly completely, by accounting for or comprehending all or virtually all pertinent considerations.
What it is used for
In the case of evaluating a research project or proposal the issue is to identify and, when necessary, to take into consideration factors that might influence the research results and their interpretation.
In other words a project should attempt to consider all possible aspects of a problem, and not focus one-sidedly on a single factor.
Not only the approach adopted by the authors of a research project or proposal should be comprehensive, but also the evaluation itself. Evaluation should be taken as a whole, and the specific guide should fulfil this requirement. Misinterpretation of the evaluation’s results is then prevented and the evaluation’s conclusions are strengthened.
In practice the issue is basically to answer two main questions :
1. About problem identification at the start of the research
- Did the authors of a research proposal or project properly identify the potential confounding factors (such as place, opportunities, available resources, institutional support, and others : see the annex on Conditions for evaluation) of the problem they are (or will be) studying?
- Did they make assumptions about the possible effects and/or interactions of such factors, with a concern for comprehensiveness, before starting their research?
- Did they proceed analytically – albeit with a view of the context?
2. About results’ interpretation by the end of the study
- Did the researchers collect the necessary data in order to specifically assess the role of confounders and make sure the role of the context on the implementation of the research is correctly assessed?
- When interpreting their results and drawing conclusions did they properly take into account the (potentially) confounding factors they had identified?
Note : It is to be noted that the questions raised above do apply to the role of the context, both in problem analysis and on the conduct of the research.