BetterEvaluation community's views on the difference between evaluation and research

Patricia Rogers's picture 17th December 2014 by Patricia Rogers

In Week 19 in May we blogged about four ways of framing the difference between research and evaluation - dichotomy, mutually independent, evaluation as a subset of research and research as a subset of evaluation. We had terrific feedback on this issue from the international BetterEvaluation community which we're sharing in this update.

In response to the comments, we've updated the labels and graphics from the originals used in Week 19 to make the distinctions clearer - in particular changing "mutually independent" to "not  mutually exclusive", and revising the diagrams. 

Many people found it most useful to think of evaluation as a subset of research - evaluation always involves research, but there are types of research which are not evaluation. For example, basic research which seeks to understand how things are or how they work without any evaluative judgements about whether this is good or bad.

Many people preferred to think about research and evaluation as not mutually exclusive - something could be evaluation, or research, or both. 

And many people said they used different framings for different purposes.

You can read all the comments about each way of framing the difference and add further comments or examples below.  We'll be revisiting this question in 2015 - and also exploring another common question "What is the difference between monitoring and evaluation?".

Thank you to everyone for their contributions to this exploration and Nicholas Herft for the illustrations. 



A special thanks to this page's contributors
CEO, BetterEvaluation.
BetterEvaluation Knowledge Platform Manager, BetterEvaluation.
Melbourne, Australia.


Anonymous's picture
Laura F

Ms. Rogers & Ms. Macfarlan! 

I am currently in my final semester of a Learning Design & Technology Master's program at ASU. We are discussing the topic of research vs evaluation. I just wanted to thank you for the visuals and survey results you posted here. They are incredibly helpful in visualizing this topic. I am able to accept the 'dichotomy' and 'eval as the subset of research' views. I am still working on seeing the other mindsets. I appreciate you sharing your insights! 

Anonymous's picture
Laura F

Hi Ms. Rogers & Ms. Macfarlan,

I am in my final semester at ASU in a Learning Design & Technology Master's program. I wanted to thank you for the recent visual, "The 4 Different Ways of Viewing Evaluation and Research." It was very helpful in trying to sort through the texts we've been reading in class. I am able to fully see the "dichotomy" and "evaluation as a subset of research" views. I am still working on viewing the other angles of this relationship. Thank you for sharing your insights! 

Anonymous's picture
Luis Hernandez

Hello Ms. Rogers and Ms. Macfarlan,

While I read and enjoyed, "the 4 Different Ways of Viewing Evaluation and Research" I agree that the new diagrams added are very helpful. While evaluation is always considered a a subset of research, it is very true that they can also be mutually exclusive and or subsets of each other. Thank you very much for the information and clarity on the subject as it makes the reading for my course my easier and understandable. 

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