C4D Hub: Definitions of key terms


Approaches are conceptually distinct ways of thinking about, designing and conducting evaluations. Examples of evaluation approaches are stakeholder-based participatory approaches and the results-based management approach, which is exemplified by the logical framework approach. Other evaluation approaches include developmental evaluation and participatory evaluation.


Evaluation is a systematic process of investigation to determine the outcomes of an initiative and the value that primary stakeholders place on development programmes and activities, and their outcomes. Evaluation is undertaken in order to improve development’s effectiveness and sustainability, to help reach objectives, to make good decisions about future activities. It helps us to understand and identify the expected and unexpected outcomes of development activities against a clear understanding of an initiative’s vision and objectives, based on community needs and aspirations, and its theory of change.

Impact assessment 

An impact assessment or impact evaluation is a specific kind of evaluation approach designed to investigate causes and contributions to change by an initiative. There are different definitions of impact evaluation. Some definitions limit impact evaluation to designs that include counterfactual approaches. However, in the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub we don't limit the definition in this way, and instead suggest that there are a range of methods that can be used to investigate impacts caused by an initiative. 


The process, design or framework that underpins our choice and use of particular methods, particular approaches to M&E, and ‘linking the choice and use of particular methods to the desired outcomes’ (Hearn et al., 2009: 22). For example, an ethnographic methodology usually includes the use of participant observation, field notes, informant interviews, and other methods that provide rich and in-depth data that enables a better understanding of a particular culture or social context. In some cases an evaluation may use more than one methodology, for example case study and the most significant change (MSC) technique. 


Techniques or tools used to plan an evaluation and to collect and analyze various forms of M&E data. For example, our evaluation approach could be participatory evaluation, our methodologies might be empowerment evaluation and case study and we might use a mix of document analysis, interviews, focus group discussions, and surveys as our evaluation methods.


A systematic and ongoing process of collecting, analyzing and using information about the progress of development activities over time, to help guide activities and improve programmes, projects and initiatives. Monitoring performs some similar functions as evaluation but is mainly descriptive, and compares a particular programme plan with outcomes. Evaluation does the same but also looks at causes and an initiative’s contribution to changes, makes judgement about how good the initiative is, and considers options for future action. 

Participatory monitoring and evaluation 

An approach that involves developing a partnership between stakeholders to collaboratively design, implement and use RM&E. Stakeholders may be involved in some or all of the following processes: developing tools, setting indicators (if they are used), undertaking data collection or analysis, and sharing concerns, experiences and learnings. In this approach, evaluation is seen as leading to social action and positive change. Participatory monitoring and evaluation enables local knowledge and culturally appropriate processes to be incorporated into evaluation processes. When it is well-planned and facilitated, participatory monitoring and evaluation enables the inclusion of the diverse perspectives of women, men, young people, and various age, caste, class and ethnic groups in the data collection, interpretation and analysis process.


Research is the systematic process of the collection and analysis of data and information, in order to generate new knowledge, to answer a specific question or to test a hypothesis. In this context, research is usually undertaken to examine relevant issues and yield evidence for better programme and policy advice.

RM&E(Research, Monitoring and Evaluation)

A term used to refer to all activities undertaken with the objective of understanding, assessing and improving a situation, project, program or policy.


The term 'study' is used in this Resource Hub to refer to discrete investigations to generate answers to specific questions. A study may be part of the monitoring system, the evaluation system, or both. Studies may be undertaken by commissioned consultant, or be an internal investigation. Examples of studies in include ‘rapid assessments’, ‘situation analyses’, ‘literature/desk reviews’, ‘mapping exercises’, 'bottleneck analyses', 'KAP surveys' and other similar sector-specific surveys.