Writing terms of reference for an evaluation: A how to guide

This resource, developed by the Independent Evaluation Group of The World Bank, provides a detailed description on how to prepare an evaluation Terms of Reference (ToR) and includes a checklist at the end to help users.


"The terms of reference (ToR) document defines all aspects of how a consultant or a team will conduct an evaluation. It defines the objectives and the scope of the evaluation, outlines the responsibilities of the consultant or team, and provides a clear description of the resources available to conduct the study. Developing an accurate and well-specified ToR is a critical step in managing a high-quality evaluation. The evaluation ToR document serves as the basis for a contractual arrangement with one or more evaluators and sets the parameters against which the success of the assignment can be measured.

The specific content and format for a ToR will vary to some degree based on organizational requirements, local practices, and the type of assignment. However, a few basic principles and guidelines inform the development of any evaluation ToR. This publication provides user-friendly guidance for writing ToRs by covering the following areas:

  • Definition and function. What is a ToR? When is one needed? What are its objectives? This section also highlights how an evaluation ToR is different from other ToRs.
  • Content. What should be included in a ToR? What role(s) will each of the sections of the document serve in supporting and facilitating the completion of a high-quality evaluation?
  • Preparation. What needs to be in place for a practitioner or team to develop the ToR for an evaluation or review?
  • Process. What steps should be taken to develop an effective ToR? Who should be involved for each of these steps?

A quality checklist and some Internet resources are included in this publication to foster good practice in writing ToRs for evaluations and reviews of projects and programs. The publication also provides references and resources for further information."

(Roberts et al., 2011)


  • Definition and Function: What is a Terms of Reference
  • Content of the Terms of Reference
  • Background Information and Rationale
  • Specific Objectives of the Evaluation and Evaluation Questions
  • Scope of the Evaluation
  • Approach and Methodology
  • Governance and Accountability
  • Guiding Principles and Values
  • Professional Qualifications
  • Deliverables and Schedule
  • Budget and Payment
  • Structure of the Proposal and Submission Guidelines
  • Additional References or Resources
  • Preparing for Writing the Terms of Reference
  • Process of Writing and Implementing the ToR
  • Resources
  • Checklist
  • Web Site Resources


Roberts, D., Khattri, N., & Wessal, A. (2011). Writing Terms of Reference for an Evaluation: A How To Guide. Washington DC, USA: Independent Evaluation Group Communication, Strategy, and Learning International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / World Bank. Retrieved from https://documents.worldbank.org/en/publication/documents-reports/documentdetail/209341599772583527/writing-terms-of-reference-for-an-evaluation-a-how-to-guide

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