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Diane O. Dunet on Writing an Evaluation Purpose Statement

My name is Diane Dunet and I am a senior evaluator on the Evaluation and Program Effectiveness Team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Our team members use a written purpose statement for our program evaluations.

In strategic planning, a mission statement serves as a touchstone that guides the choice of activities undertaken to achieve the goals of an organization. In evaluation, a purpose statement can serve as a similar touchstone to guide evaluation planning, design, implementation, and reporting.

Early in the evaluation process, evaluators on our team at CDC work with our evaluation sponsors (those requesting that an evaluation be conducted, for example a program manager) in order to understand and clarify the evaluation’s purpose. In many cases, the purpose of an evaluation is to improve a program. Other types of evaluation purposes include accountability, measuring effectiveness, assessing replicability of a program to other sites, determining what program components are essential, or making decisions about a program’s fate. We develop a written evaluation purpose statement and then refer to it during the entire evaluation process. An example purpose statement is:

The purpose of this evaluation is to provide an accountability report to the funder about the budgetary expenditures for client services delivered at 22 program sites. (Accountability.)

In the initial stages of evaluation, we are guided by the evaluation purpose when determining which program stakeholders should be involved in the evaluation in order to accomplish its purpose. We refer to the purpose statement to guide our evaluation design, seeking to match data collection methods and instruments appropriate to the evaluation purpose. We also use the evaluation purpose statement to guide us in tailoring our reports of evaluation results to align with the sponsor’s needs and the evaluation’s purpose.

Of course, evaluation findings can sometimes also be “re-purposed” to provide information in a way not originally intended, for example when program managers find ways to improve a program based on results of an evaluation for accountability.

Resource:  The CDC Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health provides a six-step approach to conducting program evaluation and is available at

Resource:  The CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention sponsors a public health version of “Evaluation Coffee Breaks” modeled after the AEA Coffee Breaks. Information and archived sessions are available at

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  • Diane Dunet · March 2, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Soory I missed seeing my own post! Thanks for comments. Yes, it often does take some time for a group of individuals who are evaluation sponsors to settle on a purpose. However the process has also been helpful in launching a meaningful discussion among sponsors about assumptions with regard to how the results will be used and how much they wish to be involved in the evaluation activities.


  • Mary Davis · January 31, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Hi Diane! As always, great resources and tips. I really like the Division Evaluation Framework.



  • Motlhakeng Lethapa · January 26, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Thanks for the good advice on purpose of evaluation. I am writing a proposal for a research thesis to evaluate an academic program. The program is still on-going and has been since 2008. I want to know if i can do a summative implementation evaluation to find out what effects it had on those who completed the programme, It’s a 2 year certificate programme.


  • Samantha Grant · January 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Diane, Thanks for sharing this critical step that is often overlooked in the rush to get started. Do you find that groups can easily identify the purpose of their evaluation or does it take some discussion?
    ~ Samantha Grant
    University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development


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