Develop the Terms of Reference (ToR)

What it is: 

The Terms of Reference (ToR) or Request for Proposal (RFP) are an explicit statement of the resources, roles and responsibilities of the evaluators and the evaluation commissioner or manager including:

• why and for whom the evaluation is being done;
• what it intends to accomplish;
• how it will be accomplished;
• who will be involved in the evaluation; and,
• when milestones need to be reached including when the evaluation needs to be completed.

Click here to jump to information about BetterEvaluation's GeneraTOR: free software to guide you through writing the different sections of a ToR / RFP.

Step 2 already helped to prepare a lot of the information, so writing the ToR is mostly a matter of bringing the necessary information together in this document.

For an internal evaluation - carried out by staff of the organization - the ToR is often called the 'evaluation brief' or the 'evaluation agreement'. Most of the elements of a formal ToR or TFP for external evaluators are relevant to be included in an internal evaluation brief/agreement.

In addition to the specifics about the project or program and its context, the evaluation –the purpose, scope, key evaluation questions and evaluation methodology (or how they should be developed) – the ToR / RFP should also include reporting requirements, milestones or deliverables, time frames, and relevant contractual requirements.

While the ToR or RFP of any evaluation process will need to be tailored to the particulars of that study and follow the requirements of the organization, there are elements which all ToRs / RFPs should include:

  1. Background
  2. Purpose/objectives/rationale for the evaluation
  3. Intended user(s) and use(s) of the evaluation
  4. Key evaluation questions
  5. The principles and approach that will guide the evaluation
  6. Methodology
  7. Roles and responsibilities of different actors
  8. Reporting requirements (see immediately below)
  9. Timeline and milestones
  10. Any specific requirements

Some organizations will include an indicative or ceiling budget.

The reporting requirements for the evaluation (referred to above as section 8 in a ToR) may include:

  • The desired format(s) (such oral, written, video, etc.)
  • Dissemination materials (such as summary, briefs, presentation materials, newsletter, etc.)
  • Intended audience(s)
  • Content areas
  • Desired length of the report
  • Whether the report should include specific recommendations
  • Whether the data sets should be returned such as completed questionnaires, surveys, interview notes and tapes, etc.)
  • Mode of delivery
  • Any specific restrictions or needed permissions to publish information from or based on the evaluation

What it involves

The ToR / RFP should be drafted before the evaluation starts. Consultants may be involved in further refining the evaluation design but the evaluation commissioner has to ensure that the ToR specifies what the evaluation needs to accomplish and what is expected from the evaluators. It is important, as part of the decision making processes, to agree on who needs to provide direct input, review and sign-off the ToR before it is released.

The following steps prepared information needed for the ToR:

  • Decide whether the evaluation will be conducted internally, externally, or by a mixed team of evaluators (see Step 2 for more detailed guidance). The ToR should include all the information external evaluators need to decide if they will bid for the work.
  • Determine the selection criteria for the external evaluator(s) (see Step 2 for more detailed guidance). Among the range of evaluator qualities, the ToR should be clear which qualities are ‘desired’ and which are ‘essential’. These will serve as criteria to support a transparent process for selecting the most suitable consultant(s). Both the criteria and the process for selection of the external evaluator(s) should be specified in the ToR.
  • Clarify whether the evaluation design will be developed as part of the ToR, as the first stage of the evaluation, or as a separate project (see Step 5). There are two basic scenarios for addressing the evaluation methodology in the ToR:

(1)  The ToR specifies a particular evaluation methodology that needs to be used and the evaluator competencies can be specified accordingly; or

(2) The ToR states that the first task of the external evaluator(s) is to design the evaluation and select an appropriate methodology, in which case it is helpful, at least, to articulate some values and/or principles that need to be upheld in the evaluation process.

  • Draft the ToR with the input from relevant staff
  • Obtain feedback from key stakeholders
  • Obtain sign-off from senior management, as per the organization's specific requirements

The ToR / RFP:

  • becomes a free-standing, public document
  • can be used as the basis for developing the contract with the external evaluator(s)
  • can be used to support discussions with primary evaluation users about their information needs


  • Evaluation brief or evaluation agreement (for internal evaluations)
  • Terms of Reference (ToR) / Request for Proposal (RFP) (for evaluations that include external evaluators)


You can use a template in a wordprocessing software to write the ToR for your evaluation or you can use the GeneraTOR below which will guide you through writing the different sections of a ToR / RFP. It will generate a word document with your saved information which can then be further refined and/or reviewed by others.

Here is a snapshot of the software:

To access the GeneraTORlogin to your BetterEvaluation account and hit the "GeneraTOR" tab on your profile page.

Not yet a BetterEvaluation member? Click join and follow the instructions to create an account.

Further information & Resources

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Anonymous's picture
Molebogeng Motswiane

Need help with how to draw a ToR

Emma Smith's picture
Emma Smith


You need to register before you can create a Terms of Reference document using the GeneraTOR. 

It's free. You can register here



Anonymous's picture
Simon Uesikoke

Would it be possible to access pdf copy of the about narrative?

Emma Smith's picture
Emma Smith

Hi Simon, 

To save the page as a pdf you have to 'print' it to a location on your device.

So, click 'print' as you normally would to print a document. A menu with printing options should appear. Change the printer or destination to 'save to pdf' and then select 'print'. The button labels may be slightly different depending on what device you're using. 

You can find more detailed instructions here

You might also find this blog on Terms of Reference interesting.




Anonymous's picture
Oryema Emmanuel

Very good guide, may I have a copy please.

SimonDavies's picture
Simon Davies

Hi Oryema

Please see the comment above from Emma Smith for instructions about printing the page to pdf.

Best wishes


Anonymous's picture
Patricia Baird

I need help on how to draw up a ToR

SimonDavies's picture
Simon Davies

Dear Patricia,

I would encourage you to join our discussion group and pose this to our members, many of whom have expertise in this area. Here's the link for you to join: Peregrine Discussion Group - Home

Warm regards