What’s the difference between research and evaluation? with Dana Wanzer

What is the difference between research and evaluation EvalNetwork Podcast Interview with Dana Wanzer

The difference between research and evaluation, the pros and cons of professionalization, the definition of evaluation, and other evaluation related topics with Dana Wanzer, Ph.D., interviewed by James Pann, Ph.D. Dana is an assistant professor of psychology in evaluation in the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin at Stout. 

Dana teaches evaluation courses to students in the MS in Applied Psychology program, as well as statistics and intro psychology. Her research focuses on the evaluation profession, including defining evaluation, data visualization practices in evaluation, the role of politics in evaluation, and more.

“In one regard, that I think our research is pointing towards is, we need to professionalize to better communicate to others outside of our field, who we are, what we do, and how we are supposed to do this work. Because if we don’t have those professional boundaries, then I mean, and we see this all the time, then funders get to dictate how evaluation is done. And it doesn’t always align with our set of competencies, our ethical guiding principles, the personal frameworks and approaches that we use in evaluation, they’ll just say, no, this is what we expect. And that may not align with what you want to do as an evaluator or what you think is maybe even ethical as an evaluator.”


00:00 – Dana’s study on the difference between research and evaluation as perceived by evaluators and educational researchers
01:01 – Why she decided to study this topic
04:10 – The methodology of her research
07:19 – What she found in her study
10:26 – Professionalization in the field of evaluation
12:14 – Common misunderstandings about what evaluation is and the impact
16:32 – Dana’s explanation of evaluation depends on who she is talking to
20:30 – The benefit of evaluators having subject matter expertise related to the evaluand
21:25 – Agenda differences between evaluators and researchers
24:53 – Do we need a better word than “evaluation” to describe what we do?
28:42 – How Dana would convince a researcher that evaluation is different from research
30:44 – Evaluation theories she uses
33:19 – Social science theories she utilizes
36:22 – What she recommends to students who want to learn about evaluation
38:45 – How she hopes evaluation will benefit students who are not primarily focused on evaluation
42:08 – How mindfulness can support evaluation education and practice 48:49 – Resources for beginning evaluators
53:38 – How to connect with Dana

Episode Links

Dana’s website
Dana’s Twitter
Dana’s LinkedIn
Evaluland Podcast
Dana’s October 2020 American Journal of Evaluation article

Podcast info

Podcast website
Apple Podcast

Connect with James

Subscribe to YouTube channel


Please reach out with comments and questions. Thanks!


James Pann smiling at the camera, sitting in front of green trees

James Pann, Ph.D. is a Professor at Nova Southeast University and a highly experienced psychologist and evaluator with nearly 25 years of experience. He conducts research and evaluation projects with non-profit organizations in the fields of health, human services, and education, and has received funding from multiple government agencies.

James holds multiple degrees including a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, an M.S. Ed. from the University of Miami, and a BBA in Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the host of the EvalNetwork podcast, a frequent conference presenter, and has published several peer-reviewed research articles and co-authored a book. James currently resides in Miami, Florida with his family and enjoys backpacking trips. Find out more about his work here.


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