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Contents | 1. Essence | 2. Aproaches | 3. Process | 4. Measuring outcomes | 5. Paradoxes
6. Examples | 7. Jargon | 8. Checklist | 9. Practice tips | 10. Resources

7. Jargon

See also planning jargon


Evaluation refers “to the process of determining the merit, worth, or value of something, or the product of that process”. (Scriven 1991)

Was something worthwhile happening here?
Is something worthwhile happening here?
Could something more worthwhile be happening here?


The extent to which program outcomes are achieving program objectives. The effectiveness of a program should be distinguished from the adequacy of administration of the program, which concerns efficiency. (Department of Finance 1994)


The extent to which program inputs are minimised for a given level of program outputs or, to put it another way, the extent to which outputs are maximised for the given level of inputs. Efficiency is concerned with the processes (activities/strategies/operations) by which the program is delivered and which produce the outputs of the program. (Department of Finance 1994)


The resources, both human and other, used to produce program outputs. An input to a program activity may also be an output of an earlier program activity. For example, the output of a training program may be qualified program staff; qualified program staff may in turn be the input for a service delivery program. (Department of Finance 1994)


The products or services which are produced and delivered by a program in order to achieve the program's outcomes. Outputs of public service programs include policy advice, administration and processing, tangible goods and services (eg. research papers produced, number of people who received assistance) and grants and transfer payments (eg. revenue). Outputs should be distinguished from outcomes (see 'Outcomes'). (Department of Finance 1994)


Concise, realistic, outcomes-oriented statements of what a program, sub-program or other element of the program structure aims to achieve. (Department of Finance 1994)


All the impacts or consequences of the program beyond its outputs. Outcomes are often delayed or long term and they may be intended or unanticipated. Although programs work towards bringing about various outcomes, often the outcomes (eg. desired changes in individuals' health) are beyond the direct control of the program, unlike outputs (eg. number of applications from foreign students approved) which programs are able to control. Outcomes should be distinguished from outputs. The causal relationship between a program and an outcome must be demonstrated before the outcome can be claimed to have been caused by the program. (Department of Finance 1994)

Outcomes hierarchy

An arrangement of the outcomes of a program in an ordered sequence or chain with the highest level being the ultimate outcome desired as a result of the program. The outcomes hierarchy is a map that shows what outcomes have to be achieved first in order for intermediate outcomes to be achieved in order for the ultimate outcomes to be achieved. The outcomes hierarchy is a useful device to help decide the appropriate level(s) of objectives against which to conduct the evaluation. The outcomes hierarchy is the centre-piece for the development of a full Program Logic . (Department of Finance 1994)

Performance information

Evidence about performance that is collected and used systematically.

Evidence may relate to appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency and may be about outcomes, about factors that affect outcomes, and about what can be done to improve outcomes. Performance information also includes evidence about the extent to which outcomes can be attributed to a program.

Performance information may be quantitative (numerical) or qualitative (descriptive) and should be verifiable. The usefulness of performance information is enhanced by the application of standards and other types of comparison (eg. with past performance, with other programs, with level of need before the program) which allow judgements to be made about performance.

Performance information collected for monitoring purposes often generates questions which are investigated in more depth in an evaluation. (Department of Finance 1994)

Cost-Benefit analysis

An analysis of the costs and benefits of a program and the relationships between those costs and benefits. Both costs and benefits are measured in terms of money. Benefits may have been expressed originally in non-monetary terms (eg. improved health) but converted to a monetary value for the purpose of cost-benefit analysis (eg. the monetary value that people put on improved health, willingness to pay etc). Many different procedures can be used to conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

A cost-benefit analysis may be conducted for a single program or for a number of alternative programs. Comparison of ratios should always be supplemented by information about a comparison of the absolute costs and benefits of each program to help determine both program appropriateness and affordability. (Department of Finance 1994)


The relationship between inputs and outcomes where inputs are expressed in dollar terms, where the outcomes are not monetary and cannot be readily converted into dollar terms. Using cost-effectiveness analysis, programs can be compared in terms of their costs and their effectiveness. Most programs have multiple outcomes and hence multiple measures of effectiveness. Typically any given program will be more effective than another program in relation to some outcomes and less effective in relation to other outcomes. A cost-effectiveness analysis will therefore require some system for weighting the value of the various outcomes to arrive at a judgement about relative worth of the two programs. (Department of Finance 1994)

Scriven, Michael. Evaluation Thesaurus, Fourth Edition. Sage Publications, 1991.
Department of Finance (Australia). Doing Evaluations A Practical Guide. Commonwealth of Australia, 1994.