Principles-focused evaluation the GUIDE

How can programs and organizations ensure they are adhering to core principles—and assess whether doing so is yielding desired results? From evaluation pioneer Michael Quinn Patton, this book introduces the principles-focused evaluation (P-FE) approach and demonstrates its relevance and application in a range of settings.

The following information was contributed by Patricia Rogers.


Michael Quinn Patton, Utilization-Focused Evaluation

Key features

In this book, Patton explains why principles matter for program development and evaluation and they can be used to navigate the uncertainties and emergent challenges of complex dynamic environments.

The book presents the the GUIDE framework for effective principles:

  • (G) (meaningful) guidance
  • (U) useful
  • (I) inspiring
  • (D) developmentally adaptable
  • (E) evaluable

There are also a number of helpful features such as rubrics, a P-FE checklist, firsthand reflections and examples from experienced P-FE practitioners, sidebars and summary tables, and end-of-chapter application exercises.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

I am planning to use this to plan evaluations of complex interventions which need to be adaptive and responsive but also organized around some clear ways of navigating decisions, actions and evaluation.  So far I have particularly appreciated its clear analysis of what a good principle looks like, and how to edit existing statements into clear principles.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

Many people are developing principles to guide their work but have little support to do so, and often end up producing statements that are something else, such as a goal, or a statement about how they think things work rather than an actual principles.  A principle provides a prescription about what to do, although not as a tightly stated rule.  For example, “add a teaspoon of salt” is a rule, whereas “season to taste” is a principle which recognises that this will be operationalised in different ways to suit the context.

The book provides many, many tables, lists, examples and checklists to support people to develop and use principles in planning and evaluating complex interventions. It draws on extensive experience in evaluation, not only from the author but also from a number of other evaluators who provide diverse, detailed exemplars.


Patton, M. Q. (2018). Principles-Focused Evaluation - The GUIDE. New York: Guilford Press.