Evaluative reasoning

This guide, written by Jane Davidson for UNICEF, looks at the use of evaluative reasoning in impact evaluation.

Evaluative reasoning synthesises the answers to lower and mid-level evaluation into defensible arguments that directly answer the evaluation questions.


"To answer evaluative questions, what is meant by ‘quality’ and ‘value’ must first be defined and then relevant evidence gathered. Quality refers to how good something is; value refers to how good it is in terms of the specific situation, in particular taking into account the resources used to produce it and the needs it was supposed to address. Evaluative reasoning is required to synthesize these elements to formulate defensible (i.e., well reasoned and well-evidenced) answers to the evaluative questions.

Evaluative reasoning is a building block in evaluation: it is used throughout the evaluation to synthesize information necessary to draw evaluative conclusions. This is done in two ways, by combining:

  • evidence about performance on a particular dimension and interpreting it relative to definitions of ‘how good is good’ to generate a rating of performance on that dimension
  • ratings of performance on several dimensions to come to an overall conclusion about how good performance is for a particular site, project, programme, policy or other ‘evaluand’ (a generic term for that which is being evaluated)."


  • Evaluative reasoning: a brief description
  • When is it appropriate to use this method?
  • How to do evaluative reasoning
  • Practical considerations
  • Which other methods work well with this one?
  • Presentation of results and analysis
  • Examples of good practices
  • Examples of challenges 


Davidson, J. (2014). Evaluative Reasoning. UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/brief%204%20evaluative%20reasoning_eng.pdf

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