Sheffield Hallam University Evaluation Repository

Evaluation repository glossary


Access and outreach:The first stage of the student lifecycle that focuses on interventions that support individuals to access higher education. (Office for Students).


Analysis:’Analysis is a process of sorting and organising data in a systematic way in order to make sense of it. The nature of the data, not the method, will prescribe the process of analysis.’ (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)


Anonymity: ‘Anonymity refers to the extent to which participants can be individually identified during and after data collection’. (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Causal: A type of evaluation that seeks to provide evidence of a causal effect of an intervention (i.e. that the impact can be directly attributed to the intervention) through the use of a control or comparison group. (Centre for Social Mobility, 2019).


Confidentiality: ‘Ensuring confidentiality is an activity of the researcher to hold data in confidence and within the boundaries of the research process.’ (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Empirical: A type of evaluation that seeks to collect data on impact and report evidence about changes in outcomes for those receiving an intervention, though does not establish any direct causal effect. For this evaluation, quantitative and/or qualitative evidence will need to be collected. (Centre for Social Mobility, 2019).


Evaluation: ‘Evaluation involves making judgements about the merit, value, significance, credibility, and utility of whatever is being evaluated: for example, a program, a policy, a product, or the performance of a person or team’ (Patton).


Evidence:’ Data gathered through structured research and evaluation is only one component of evidence. Evidence can also include stakeholder values and perspectives, organisational context and practitioner reflections which are collected more informally. (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)


Exploratory: Evidence of a specific topic that could be used to design an intervention.



Generalisation:’ Generalisation describes the extent to which research findings can be applied to settings other than that in which they were originally tested. (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Hypothesis:’ A hypothesis is a specific statement which relates to a research problem. It is a statement framed as a suggested answer to a research question and would use an evidence base to support this assumption. Your research findings are then used to empirically test whether your hypothesis was correct. (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Impact evaluation: A type of evaluation that is focused on estimating or measuring the ‘consequential change that results from activities' or interventions, such as the short-term benefits, medium-term outcomes and long-term impact (Parsons, 2017, p. 80).


Intervention: The things that the program or group of stakeholders will undertake to bring about the outcome(s).



Methodology and Method: ‘A methodology is the justification for the methods used to carry out the evaluation or research. This will include a theoretical justification of your approach including the overall design, how you will recruit a sample, and how your data will be analysed. The methods refer to the practical steps taken to collect your data.’ (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Narrative: A type of evaluation that seeks to provide a ‘plausible rationale for why you are doing what you are doing’, which is deemed to be the minimum requirement for all interventions. It is anticipated that the evaluation will refer to existing evidence of impact, literature or practitioner reflections. (Centre for Social Mobility, 2019).



Process evaluation: A type of evaluation that focuses on ‘evaluating the mechanisms through which an intervention takes place, usually with a view to seeing how they could be improved’. There is an emphasis on ‘giving decision makers evidence of how (well) an intervention has been implemented or managed against expectations, how it operates, and how it produces what it does’ (Parsons, 2017, p. 25).


Progression: The third and final stage of the student lifecycle that focuses on interventions that ‘support students to progress from higher education into employment or further study’. (Office for Students).


Proportionality:’ Proportionality is making choices about the design of evaluation or research which are appropriate to, for example, the scale, cost, risk and potential impact of an intervention (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Qualitative: ’Qualitative data relies on the interpretation of the data by the researcher. The data collection is more flexible and allows participants to add value to the data by directing the content. The intention is to create a rich interpretation of emotions and perceptions, often including reflections over a period of time.’ (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)


Quantitative : ’Quantitative data is expressed numerically and has been generated using a structured and rigid data collection method. This means that the focus of the questions and the units for analysis have been prescribed by the researcher or an information management. The aim of quantitative data is to quantify variability in a large sample and look for patterns, trends over time, correlations and sometimes causality and generalisability to a population through statistical analysis.’ (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Research : ‘Research is defined as activity which seeks to contribute new insights to a body of knowledge. The research process would include the identification of a research problem and a research question, and the selection of the most appropriate methodology to help answer it.’ (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)


Response rate: 'Response rates are most often applied to survey data collection and refer to the number of surveys completed as a proportion of those that were eligible to complete it.' (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)



Sample: 'A sample is a selected target group for participation in your research. A sample is drawn from a wider population (all possible respondents)’ (Austin & Jones-Devitt, 2020)


Success: The second stage of the student lifecycle which focuses on interventions that address ‘the barriers that prevent…students from continuing and therefore succeeding in higher education’. (Office for Students).



Theory of Change: ‘A coherent account of why your…intervention might have the effect you want and how your activities [interventions] link to the desired results’. (Centre for Social Mobility, 2019).


Type of evidence: Type of evidence refers to the evaluation design and the claims that can be made from the evaluation findings.