A Terms of Reference (ToR) document provides an important overview of what is expected in an evaluation.
Developing a well-specified Terms of Reference (ToR) is a vital step in managing a high-quality evaluation. In an external evaluation the ToR document provides the basis for a contractual arrangement between the commissioners of an evaluation and a consultant/evaluation team and establishes the parameters against which the success of an evaluation assignment can be assessed.
The specific content and format for a ToR will vary to some extent according to organisational requirements, local practices, and the type of assignment.
Common elements of a ToR include:
1. Why and for whom the evaluation is being done
- Background knowledge about the evaluand including objective, strategy and progress to date
- Purpose(s) of the evaluation
- Primary intended users and uses
- Key evaluation questions.
2. How it will be accomplished
- Overall scope and approach
- Evaluation methodology/evaluation plan (sometimes done as part of the ToR and sometimes done as part of the evaluation proposal or as the first deliverable in the evaluation project)
3. Who will undertake the evaluation and accountabilities
- Professional qualifications, experience and expertise required for the evaluator or evaluation team.
- Roles and responsibilities of the parties, including processes for signing off on the evaluation plan and reports
4. Milestones, deliverables and timelines
- What deliverables are required and when - for example, detailed evaluation plan, inception report, progress report, interim report, draft final report, final report
5. What resources are available to conduct the evaluation
- Budget (if organisation's policy allows this to be stated)
- Existing data
'Terms of reference' is referenced in:
- Communication for Development (C4D) :
- Rainbow Framework :
- Manager's guide to evaluation :