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Suggested Citation:"PURPOSES OF DOCUMENTATION AND EVALUATION CRITERIA." National Research Council. 1991. Improving Information for Social Policy Decisions -- The Uses of Microsimulation Modeling: Volume II, Technical Papers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1853.
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Page 335

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DOCUMENTATION FOR MICROSIMULATION MODELS: A REVIEW OF TRIM2, MATH, AND HITSM 335 • The quality of the writing in the documents reviewed is highly uneven. Formatting is inconsistent. The texts are filled with jargon and mnemonics, and there are many inaccuracies. The many typographical errors confuse the reader and raise doubts about the credibility of the models. • Many of the documents have dated updates and refer to model (or documentation) releases, but the archiving systems are typically unexplained and the changes or updates are not identified. Furthermore, many obsolete cross-references exist, which suggests that updates have not been carefully integrated into the documents. • All of the documentation manuals reviewed lack some components of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers's (IEEE) industry-wide standard for documentation. A key component that is missing from all the documents is an index. • The copies of the documents that were examined have many publication flaws. Entire chapters are printed upside down; several key chapters have pages missing; several pages are unreadable because of the poor quality of the reproduction. This lack of quality control suggests that low priority is given to the documentation. • The documentation of these models is formidable in content, format, and sheer size, but the absence of well-written documentation has probably contributed to the lack of widespread use of or trust in these models. PURPOSES OF DOCUMENTATION AND EVALUATION CRITERIA What constitutes reasonable criteria with which to judge the documentation of microsimulation models? First, it should be recognized that model documentation can serve three fundamental purposes—to provide information about how a model operates, to provide instruction to individuals on how to operate the model, and to serve as a reference. The HITSM documentation is clearly of an informational nature, whereas the TRIM2 documentation and the MATH documentation are mainly reference documents. Second, the intended audiences for various parts of the documentation need to be considered. As described above, there are three parties to the typical microsimulation study transaction—sponsor, analyst, and applications programmer. Correspondingly, informational, instructional, or reference documentation could be targeted to any of these three audiences. Even though particular documents may serve a particular purpose for a specific audience, there are several general criteria that can be used to evaluate a document. These criteria pertain to content and format. With respect to content, documentation should have accuracy, clarity, and completeness. With respect to format, the main objectives should be ease of use and consistency. With respect to the components of documentation, the IEEE has published an industry-wide

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This volume, second in the series, provides essential background material for policy analysts, researchers, statisticians, and others interested in the application of microsimulation techniques to develop estimates of the costs and population impacts of proposed changes in government policies ranging from welfare to retirement income to health care to taxes.

The material spans data inputs to models, design and computer implementation of models, validation of model outputs, and model documentation.

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