Research and Assessment Glossary



The responsibility of staff to provide evidence to stakeholders that a program or service is effective and in conformity with its coverage, service, legal, and fiscal requirements.

Accounting Perspectives

Perspectives underlying decisions on which categories of goods and services to include as costs or benefits in an efficiency analysis.

Action Step

A way to implement one element of a strategy to achieve an outcome or objective.

Applied Research

Applied research is designed to solve practical problems of the modern world, rather than to aqcquire knowledge for knowledge's sake. One might say that the goal of the applied scientist is to improve the human condition.

Area/Organization Effectiveness

Extent to which an area or organization meets its unique mission.

Area/Organization Standards

Stipulated achievement levels set by the area or organization.


A means of data-gathering strategies, analyses, and reporting processes that provide information that can be used to determine whether or not intended outcomes are being achieved. Assessment seeks to describe how, under what circumstances, and to what extent an event occurs.

Forms of Assessment


Is used to improve organizational effectiveness and typically focuses on improving the processes which potentially lead to increased effectiveness.


Used to determine if a particular organizational activity or function should be continued, enhanced, curtailed, or eliminated. These are used for accountability and strategic planning.


Used to communicate and defend a program to potential stakeholders, including professional staff, office staff, faculty, administrators, parents, taxpayers, and funders.

Types of Assessment

Efficiency Assessment

An evaluative study that answers questions about program costs in comparison to either the monetary value of its benefits or its effectiveness in terms of the changes brought about in the social conditions it addresses.

Impact Assessment

Answers questions about program outcomes and impact on the conditions it is intended to make or become better.

Implementation Assessment

Designed to answer questions about program operations, implementation, and service delivery as intended to the target recipients.

Needs Assessment

Answers questions about the conditions a program is intended to address and the need for the program.

Pre-Post Test

A reflexive control design in which only one measure is taken before and after the intervention.

Qualitative Assessment

Narrative categorization of individuals into discrete groups and based on a question; the responses are free-form expressions, opinions, ideas or perceptions.
Used to obtain detailed information and allow for direct follow-up.
Focus Group
A small panel of persons selected for their knowledge or perspective on a topic of interest that is convened to discuss the topic with the assistance of a facilitator. The discussion is used to identify important themes or to construct descriptive summaries of views and experiences on the focal topic.
Used to gather qualitative data in an unobtrusive way. For example, watch students in the dining hall to determine which types of food are most popular.
Way of documenting progression towards goals.
Content Analysis
Used to pull out themes from existing qualative data.
Allows a person to reflect on experience. Can be analyzed using a rubric or content analysis.

Quantitative Assessment

Generally in numeric form; compared directly or subjected to statistical analysis.
Simply tracking individuals served/impacted.
Can be paper or electronic and used to understand satisfaction, determine effectiveness, understand characteristics.
Identify actions or activities that have occurred or taken place often used with surveys. For example, mark the activities you attended during welcome week.
Set of criteria used to judge student demonstration of learning.

Assessment Plan

The document outlining area outcomes or student learning outcomes, methods used to demonstrate the attainment of each outcome. Intervals at which evidence is collected and reviewed, and the individual(s) responsible for the collection/review of evidence.



Performance data (from its own annual program review, from another program or institution) used for comparative purposes.

Basic Research

Basic (aka fundamental or pure) research is driven by a scientist's curiosity or interest in a scientific question. The main motivation is to expand man's knowledge , not to create or invent something. There is no obvious commercial value to the discoveries that result from basic research.


Control Group

A group of targets that do not receive the program intervention and that is compared on outcome measures with one or more groups that do receive the intervention.

Cost-benefit Analysis

Analytical procedure for determining the economic efficiency of a program, expressed as the relationship between costs and outcomes, usually measured in monetary terms.

Culture/Campus Environment

Demographics of the institution and its students, personnel, traditions, and processes.



Entry/Exit Interview

Perceptions of attitudes and/or behaviors based on a process, program or service.


Uses assessment information to support decisions on maintaining, changing, or discarding services or programmatic practices.

Types of Evaluation

Outcome Evaluation

An evaluative study that answers questions about program outcomes and impact on the conditions it is intended to improve.

Performance Evaluation

Evaluating the data collected through observation based on a clearly articulated set of performance criteria.

Evidence Based Culture

An organizational environment in which decisions are pased on facts, research, and analysis, and where services are planned and delivered in ways that maximize positive outcomes and impacts for cutomers and stakeholders.


Feedback Loop

Review of assessment results, how personnel is involved and how results will be communicated and made available to appropriate internal and external constituents.


A set of ideas, principles, agreements or rules that provide the basis or the outline for something that is more fully developed at a later stage.



A projected state of affairs which an area of the organzation plans or intends to achieve or bring about- an organizational desired end-point.



Implicit Program Theory

Assumptions and expectations inherent in a program's services and practices that have not been fully articulated and recorded.

Indirect Measures

Limited to perceptions of student knowledge or skills or services provided; evidence that knowledge or skill may have been learned.

Inter-Departmental Collaboration

More than one unit is necessary to facilitate a program, determine program goals, outcomes and review program effectiveness.

J, K


Learning Outcomes

Define the goals of learning experiences; they specify what a student should be able to know, do or value after participating in those activities.


Mission Statement

Clarifies an organization's purpose, or why it should be doing what it does.



Outcome Objective

The desired results or ends to be achieved because of a service or intervention. It is participant centered.


Performance Measure

Quantifies your progress toward your stated goal through measurement of outcomes or objectives.

Process Objective

Specifies how things will be done, e.g., the means or processes involved. It is facilitator centered.




Systematic investigation toward increasing the sum of knowledge or to inform practice.


Qualifies the evidence collected to show that programs and/or service - in process and content - are conceived intentionally, planned carefully, and implemented thoughtfully and effectively.



Valuable action, deed, or effort performed to satisfy a need or to fulfill a demand.


Individuals, groups, or organizations having a significant interest in how well a program functions or a service is delivered.


Pre-determined criterion or industry/departmental/area expectation.


A means to achieving an outcome or goal.



The unit to which a program intervention or service is directed.


Serves to build an essential foundation for assessment planning providing a conceptual foundation.


Organized activity aimed at imparting information and/or instructions to improve student/staff performance or to help him or her attain a required level of knowledge or skill.

U, V, W, X, Y, Z

Source(s): Assessment Reconsidered, Evaluation A Systematic Approach; University of North Carolina Wilmington; Laying the Foundation: Assessment Basics Dartmouth; Business; Lakos & Phipps; Websters Dictionary