How to make Theory of Change diagrams with Theorymaker
Each line in the text box is one variable in the graph. A variable is any factor in your theory of change - something which could be different. Something you can control, or something you want to happen, or anything in between.
A variable Another variable!
That isn’t much fun. We want to draw edges between the variables, usually with arrows to show which change contributes to what.
Arrows can be specified in four different ways for convenience. Just paste any of these examples into the text box to try them out and adjust them.
Using spaces to create edges (arrows) between variables.
You can just use spaces before the variables, like this:
me child a grandchild a grandchild b child b grandchild c grandchild d
Spaces are good for when you think about the effects of something.
Supermarkets charge for plastic bags Far fewer plastic bags purchased Much less plastic waste Somewhat more hemp bags purchased Somewhat more hemp waste Shoppers more conscious of waste
Using dots to create edges (arrows) between variables.
Or you can use dots, which reverses the order.
goal .result a ..subresult a ..subresult b .result b ..subresult c ..subresult d
This way you can build up nice tidy hierarchies, but you can also have ragged ones too:
goal .result a ..subresult a ...sub-sub result x ...sub-sub result y ..subresult b .result b ..subresult c
Don’t let your planning tools force you to be regimented if you don’t want to be!
Advanced tips and tricks
The last diagram was pretty nice but we’d like to point out that one of these effects is small and negative, another is large and positive.
Supermarkets charge for plastic bags Far fewer plastic bags purchased; edgecolor=black Pollution? Somewhat more hemp bags purchased; edgecolor=red Pollution?
I can even add labels to the edges and make them different widths.
Finally, this diagram needs a different shape. On the web interface, I can just drag the
proportion slider to the left to make it shallower. Or I can do the same thing by writing
proportion, putting a small number for shallow and wide:
Supermarkets charge for plastic bags Far fewer plastic bags purchased; edgewidth=4; edgecolor=black Pollution? Somewhat more hemp bags purchased; edgewidth=1; edgecolor=red; edgelabel=negative Pollution? proportion=.1
Oh, and if you are lazy you can abbreviate all these things:
Supermarkets charge for plastic bags Far fewer plastic bags purchased; ewid=4; ecol=black Pollution? Somewhat more hemp bags purchased; ewid=1; ecol=red; elab=negative Pollution? pro=.1
So we looked at how to ose dots and spaces and how to change the appearance by adding things like
Sometimes it is convenient to combine spaces and dots.
goal .result a goal 2 .result b
Sometimes we want to draw diagrams with loops in them. Theorymaker doesn’t stop you.
Parent gets angry Child gets upset Parent gets angry
If you find yourself repeating variables a lot and you don’t want to copy and paste, you can use an alias by putting some easy shorter form in front of the full name, separated by a double colon.
Pa Child gets upset Pa::Parent gets angry
You have to define the alias on the last appearance, othewise this will happen:
Pa::Parent gets angry Child gets upset Pa
Those two techniques are nice and easy but for more complicated cases you can use
to=. You can specify more than one target, separated by spaces.
a;to=b d b;to=c c d
A space is used to separate targets. So what to do if the target of the “to” has spaces in its name? Just remove the spaces.
b with gaps in name a;to=bwithgapsinname d d
Finally, you can use a decimal point notation which is very common in project designs.
a a.1 a.1.x a.1.y a.2
If you are using the decimal point notation and want to have meaningful labels, you have to use aliases.
x :: Goal x.a :: Result a x.a.1 :: Result a.1 x.b :: Result b x.c :: Result c
Note that I put some spaces in before and after the colons to make it easier to read. You can leave them out if you want.
Combinations of these specifications can also be used.
a a.1 c;to=a .d
One of the neat things about Theorymaker is that it is easy to add edges, arrows, between variables.
If you are specifying more than one target with
to=, and you decorate the edges, look what happens:
a;to=b c;edgelabel= my label b c
If you don’t want this effect, you can use additional lines:
a;to=b;edgelabel= my label a;to=c;edgelabel= my other label b c
You can also control the arrowheads.
a b; edgedirection=both c; edgedirection=none
Grouping boxes are specified using an initial
-. If you want boxes inside boxes, use more dashes.
-School Principal;to=Teacher --Classes Teacher;to=Motivation Learning ---Students Learning .Motivation
Empty boxes are possible too.
-box one --inner box
There is also a handy way to add notes (with matching colours) to your items. So if you use
;note_two=some note in a variable, a note “some note” labelled “two” will appear at the bottom of the item. If you do this in multiple variables, the fill colours match.
-Project school b::Teachers;note_number=30;note_importance=high Intervention;to=b -Comparison school cb::Teachers;note_number=30 Dummy intervention;to=cb
Valued variables & input variables
One more feature: you can mark variables which are valued or which are inputs quite simply:
goal;valued=yes .result a ..subresult a ...other contribution a ..subresult b ...input b;input=yes .result b_val ..subresult c ...input c;input=yes ..subresult d ...input d1;input=yes ...input d2;input=yes
There are also shortcodes for some features which you can add at the end of your variable names or aliases:
_valmeans this is a valued variable
_inpmeans this is an input variable
_defmeans this is a defined variable
_scemeans this box is a scenario
_mulmeans this box contains multiple cases
_dotmakes a dotted line
--Group 1_sce c_inp a_val --Group 2_mul b_dot;to=d d