According to A Dictionary of Sociology, it's only since the 1960s that evaluation research has become a field of its own. It also describes evaluation research as “a type of policy research devoted to assessing the consequences, intended and unintended, of a new policy programme or of an existing set of policies and practices, including measurement of the extent to which stated goals and objectives are being met, and measurement of displacement and substitution effects.” The different types of evaluation methodologies focus on various elements from this definition.
Goals-based evaluations look at the specific goals established by a program or a project, and they try to determine if the initial objectives and goals will be met. The goals are originally described in the initial program or project plan. Typical questions of a goal-based evaluation will inquire about the effectiveness of the processes toward completion of the original goal, the current status of the project in comparison to the end objective, the resources available to achieve the goals and the timelines.
The process-based methodology is oriented toward a full understanding of the workings of a program or a project. When a program has been in place for a long period of time and has seen several changes over the years, the methodology of process-based evaluations will be able to examine the impacts of these long-term initiative and changes. For example, if a program has been receiving multiple complaints from its customers over the years, the process-based evaluation will be able to identify the inefficiencies in the delivery mode of the program or services by looking at the way it operates.
Outcome-based evaluations are conducted to gather descriptive data about a project and allow to examine short-term results. For this type of methodology, the focus is on tasks that describe the output of the activity, such as the number of complaints received about a new product or the number of sign-ups after the launch of a new program. The results from this type of methodology only describe the immediate effects of a specific action and help identify changes in attitude, knowledge, audience intentions, behavior or policies, and institutional changes. The impact evaluation method is synonymous of the outcome-based methodology. It differs slightly in that it looks at long-term changes. For example, it can be used to evaluate a change in absenteeism in the workplace after a new logging system would have been put in place.
Formative Evaluation Method
The formative evaluation method assesses the strengths and weaknesses of materials, campaign strategies or a project before its implementation. In this methodology, testing of the object of the evaluation by a small group is done prior to large-scale implementation. It allows for the project or program to be reviewed and changed prior to its launch to avoid costly mistakes and enhance efficiency for better chances of successful implementation.