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Terms of reference

What are you looking for?

If effects are to be measured and evaluated by an internal team, but especially if an external or mixed team is in charge, the terms of reference and the planning of the impact assessment should be set down in writing.

The terms of reference for an impact assessment may follow the following structure for evaluations in general:


Rationale and purpose 
Why is the evaluation being conducted and what will the findings be used for? 
For example:

  • To optimise processes or methods,
  • To further improve strategy or policy,
  • To decide on the future conduct of a project or programme,
  • To show accountability to funders or the public.

What is the evaluation supposed to show? 
For example:

  • To confirm that the project has had a particular output, achieved a particular outcome for the target group or made a contribution to the overarching goal;
  • Assess whether a specific intervention was efficient, effective and relevant;
  • Present observations, conclusions and recommendations about a specific project or programme.

The scope of the evaluation needs to be clearly defined, with a clear description of the key framework principles. For example:

  • The topics investigated, 
  • The time period to be studied,
  • The activities to be studied,
  • The activities to be studied,
  • The geographical scope,
  • Target groups.

People involved and affected
Who is involved in the evaluation and affected by it? Which interests and needs do these individuals/groups have? How are these taken into account? For example:

  • Project managers and staff,
  • Mediating organisations,
  • Target group,
  • Partner organisations,
  • Government.


How are the findings reported? Are there other “deliverables” alongside the conventional report? For example:

  • Conventional report, 
  • Workshop with people involved,
  • Debriefing with project managers,
  • Presentations for line managers,
  • Lessons learnt in writing.


  • Are the costs proportionate to the complexity of the questions asked and the value of the desired information?

What agreements need to be set down in writing?

  • Write down objective, rationale and point of view of the evaluation;
  • Formulate evaluation questions;
  • Agree deadlines and budget;
  • The terms of reference can be based on quality standards (e.g. DAC, SEVAL, SDC);
  • Define the reporting format.