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Last updated: 13/01/2006

Methodological bases
Evaluation process (How?)
Judgement References




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What does this mean?

The concept of a 'target' is widely used in the context of public management for setting a verifiable objective or a level of performance to be achieved. In an evaluation context it is used in a much wider sense since the evaluated intervention may have to be judged against targets that were not set in advance but that are specifically identified, such as a benchmark, a success threshold or a comparable good practice.

What is the purpose?

  • To avoid subjectivity and formulate a judgement on accepted and recognised terms.

How can they be determined?

By reference to an objective defined in a verifiable way

The target may appear in one of the intervention objectives, that is, as long as they have been established in a verifiable way. In this particular case, the same indicator helps to define the objective, to make the judgment criterion operational and to determine the target.

  • Example: the number of qualified and experienced teachers per 1,000 children of primary-school age is at least 20.

In relation to comparable good practices outside the intervention

In this case, the target is established at the outset of the evaluation. It is not related to an objective or a performance framework existing prior to the evaluation.

  • Example: the access to primary education with qualified and experienced teachers is at least as satisfactory as in the case of X (recognised good practice at regional level).

The procedure is as follows:

  • Identify a comparable practice recognised for its quality (similar EC intervention in another country; intervention by another donor, intervention in another sector though using the same instruments).
  • Obtain information on the practice for comparison (this is easier if it has already been evaluated).
  • Ensure that the contextual conditions are close enough that they allow for comparison.
  • Proceed to carry out the comparison (essentially qualitative).
  • Discuss and validate the comparison with the reference group.


Compared to best practices identified within the intervention

The target can be found within the evaluated intervention itself during the synthesis phase, provided that specific practices can be considered as good as regards the judgement criteria under consideration.

In this case, the good practices will serve as benchmarks to judge the others. Of course, it is advisable to check that the contextual conditions are close enough so as to allow for comparison.

  • Example: In areas where ethnic minority X concentrates, the number of qualified and experienced teachers per 1,000 children of primary-school age is close to the best performing areas in the country.

For further information:


When should they be determined?

Earlier or later in the evaluation process

If the target is derived from a verifiable objective or a performance framework, then it can be determined at the very first stage of the evaluation process.

If the target is derived from an outside benchmark, then it should be identified during the early stages of the evaluation. However, the process may involve the gathering of secondary data with a view to specifying the benchmark, as well as a careful examination of comparability. This means that the target will not be completely defined in the first phase of the evaluation.

If the target is to be derived from the best practices discovered within the intervention by the evaluation team, it will be determined in the synthesis phase.

After choosing the judgement criterion

Determining the target takes place in a three-step process:

  • Choice and finalisation of the evaluation question.
  • Choice of the judgment criterion (or criteria).
  • The targets, the indicators and the sources of information are determined together in the third step.

Evaluation targets and others

When the evaluation question pertains to an intended result or impact, the target level is usually derived from a verifiable objective or borrowed from a performance assessment framework.

Performance monitoring may however be of little or no help in the instance of evaluation questions relating to cross-cutting issues, sustainability factors, unintended effects, evolving needs and problems, coherence, etc.