Evaluation Research

Michael Scriven

The definition of evaluation is still a bone of contention, even amongst evaluators, and is often completely caricatured by other social scientists. The consensus of the dictionaries defines it as the process of determining merit, worth or significance, which means that evaluation research is this process when done with the degree of skill and sophistication that we associate with research in contrast to amateur reflection. There seems to be no good reason to abandon the dictionaries, and thereby confuse students and clients by using the term in a way different from their own. Evaluators tend to think that the term should refer to whatever evaluators do, but that is like saying that the definition of ‘research mathematician’ should include teaching calculus since many of them do it. It is easier to go with the dictionaries, while allowing that a good deal of what evaluators do is just survey research or ...

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