Setting the scope of an evaluation

In setting the scope of an evaluation, you need to consider the purpose, questions, criteria and standards.


The purpose of any evaluation needs to be agreed between the stakeholders.

Evaluation can serve a variety of purposes, some of which overlap. For example, evaluation can be used to:

  • guide decisions about ongoing quality improvement and adjustment
  • identify emerging needs, gaps and priorities
  • guide decisions about whether to continue a project or bring it to a close
  • facilitate accountability and transparency
  • inform policy and practice by others outside the organisation by contributing to the broader evidence base about ‘what works’.

For evaluation to serve a formative purpose, guiding decisions about ongoing improvement and adjustment, it needs to be built into the design of the program.

Follow the link below to read more about determining evaluation purpose.


Clear evaluation questions clarify our purpose and guide our efforts. Evaluation questions differ depending on the type of evaluation. For example:

  • In a process evaluation, we are asking questions like ‘what did we do and how well did we do it?’
  • In an outcome evaluation, we are asking questions like ‘what happened as a result of the program?’
  • In an economic evaluation, we are asking questions like ‘did the initiative deliver good return on investment?’

Most evaluation efforts seek to address a combination of process and outcome questions. Economic evaluations tend to come later, once it has been established that the program provides a good outcome.

Follow the links below to read more about setting evaluation questions and about process, outcome and economic evaluations.


Evaluation criteria are the categories we think in when making an overall judgement. Examples of evaluation criteria include effectiveness, equity and return on investment. These are all different concepts, and there are different ways of assessing each one.

It’s important to be clear about what our evaluation criteria are, and how important each one is, before we collect and analyse our data. This may require engagement with stakeholders as part of the evaluation planning, where value judgements about ‘what matters’ can be openly discussed and debated.

Follow the link below to read more about setting evaluation criteria.


Evaluation standards shape the way we interpret the trends and patterns we see in our data. For an outcome evaluation, this particularly includes how we decide whether a result is 'good' versus 'great', or 'acceptable' versus 'disappointing'.

Setting evaluation standards as part of the planning phase helps avoid bias.

Follow the link below to read more about setting evaluation standards.


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