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dtSearch is a Key Tool in Humanitarian Projects

“I have been using dtSearch for working with large data sets in humanitarian evaluations for the last five years, and it is an essential tool for working with such large sets of documents.”
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“Using dtSearch Publish allows me to distribute CD-ROMs with evaluation data-sets to colleagues in the field, so that they can use the power of dtSearch to interrogate the data-sets.”
John Cosgrave is the Evaluation Advisor and Coordinator for the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition. The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition is a joint initiative by UN agencies, Donor Governments, the Red Cross, Non-Governmental Organisations and the Active Learning Network on Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP). ALNAP is an international, interagency forum working to improve learning, accountability and performance across the Humanitarian Sector.

“Evaluations of humanitarian relief programmes are one of the principle ways in which humanitarian agencies can improve their performance,” said Mr. Cosgrave ”We hope to learn from the experience of the response in one emergency to have a better quality response in the next one.”

“One of the problems with evaluating large-scale humanitarian operations is the sheer number of documents that the evaluation team has to deal with,” continued Mr. Cosgrave. ”A crisis like the Indian Ocean Tsunami in December 2004 can generate huge amounts of documents. ReliefWeb, the key resource website for humanitarian response, was publishing about one thousand documents a week at the start of the Tsunami. A major evaluation can have thousands of source documents. You can’t possibly read all of them, and you can’t ignore them either.”

For working with these data sets, Mr. Cosgrave chose dtSearch.  “I have been using dtSearch for working with large data sets in humanitarian evaluations for the last five years, and it is an essential tool for working with such large sets of documents. dtSearch allows me to quickly process thousands of documents, and then to search them with sophisticated searches to find documents dealing with specific issues.”

Mr. Cosgrave particularly liked dtSearch’s search option selection. “dtSearch’s can be used to search for concepts (through the relative position of words) rather than words alone. One simple example was where we wanted to find documents that referred to the different impact of the Tsunami on men and women. We just search for the occurrence of ‘men’ within a few words of ‘women,’ while excluding all documents where ‘men’ ‘women’ and ‘children’ are close together (so as to exclude documents which talk about ‘men, women, and children’). This immediately gives us a small set of documents to look through for what we are interested in, a huge time-saving for the evaluation team. dtSearch also allows me to automatically search large document sets for keywords (and their frequency) and then process this information using a spreadsheet to automatically generate bibliographic databases where keywords are set for documents based on a certain minimum prevalence in a document.”

For CD/DVD publication, Mr. Cosgrave chose dtSearch Publish. “Using dtSearch Publish allows me to distribute CD-ROMs with evaluation data-sets to colleagues in the field, so that they can use the power of dtSearch to interrogate the data-sets. I regularly distribute reference document sets when I am doing training in the field. dtSearch Publish will cut down the time it takes me to develop such sets, and make them more useful in the field through adding powerful search facilities.”

For more information on ALNAP and the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition’s organizational information and extensive work in the relief sector, please visit ALNAP at www.alnap.org. Please see ReliefWeb www.ReliefWeb.int for details of current and past humanitarian responses.
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