What is Evaluation Research? + [Methods & Examples]

Every business and organization has goals. 

But, how do you know if the time, money, and resources spent on strategies to achieve these goals are working?

Or, if they’re even worth it? 

Evaluation research is a great way to answer these common questions as it measures how effective a specific program or strategy is.

In this post, we’ll cover what evaluation research is, how to conduct it, the benefits of doing so, and more.

Article Contents

Evaluation Research: Definition

Evaluation research, also known as program evaluation, is a systematic analysis that evaluates whether a program or strategy is worth the effort, time, money, and resources spent to achieve a goal. 

Based on the project’s objectives, the study may target different audiences such as: 

  • Employees
  • Stakeholders
  • Customers
  • Prospective customers
  • Board members
  • Donors

The feedback gathered from program evaluation research is used to validate whether something should continue or be changed in any way to better meet organizational goals.  

Evaluation Research Definition

The Purpose of Program Evaluation

The main purpose of evaluation research is to understand whether or not a process or strategy has delivered the desired results. 

It is especially helpful when launching new products, services, or concepts.

That’s because research program evaluation allows you to gather feedback from target audiences to learn what is working and what needs improvement. 

It is a vehicle for hearing people’s experiences with your new concept to gauge whether it is the right fit for the intended audience.

And with data-driven companies being 23 times more likely to acquire customers, it seems like a no-brainer.

data-driven company stats

As a result of evaluation research, organizations can better build a program or solution that provides audiences with exactly what they need.

Better yet, it’s done without wasting time and money figuring out new iterations before landing on the final product.

Evaluation Research Advantages & Disadvantages

In this section, our market research company dives more into the benefits and drawbacks of conducting research evaluation methods.

Understanding these pros and cons will help determine if it’s right for your business.

Advantages of Evaluation Research

In many instances, the pros of program evaluation outweigh the cons.

It is an effective tool for data-driven decision-making and sets organizations on a clear path to success.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of conducting research evaluation methods.

Justifies the time, money, and resources spent

First, evaluation research helps justify all of the resources spent on a program or strategy. 

Without evaluation research, it can be difficult to promote the continuation of a costly or time-intensive activity with no evidence it’s working. 

Rather than relying on opinions and gut reactions about the effectiveness of a program or strategy, evaluation research measures levels of effectiveness through data collected. 

Identifies unknown negative or positive impacts of a strategy

Second, program research helps users better understand how projects are carried out, who helps them come to fruition, who is affected, and more. 

These finer details shed light on how a program or strategy affects all facets of an organization.

As a result, you may learn there are unrealized effects that surprise you and your decision-makers.

Helps organizations improve

The research can highlight areas of strengths (i.e., factors of the program/strategy that should not be changed) and weaknesses (i.e., factors of the programs/strategy that could be improved).

Disadvantages of Evaluation Research

Despite its many advantages, there are still limitations and drawbacks to evaluation research.

Here are a few challenges to keep in mind before moving forward.

It can be costly

The cost of market research varies based on methodology, audience type, incentives, and more.

For instance, a focus group will be more expensive than an online survey.

Though, I’ll also make the argument that conducting evaluation research can save brands money down the line from investing in something that is a dud.

Poor memory recall

Many research evaluation methods are dependent on feedback from customers, employees, and other audiences. 

If the study is not conducted right after a process or strategy is implemented, it can be harder for these audiences to remember their true opinions and feelings on the matter.

Therefore, the data might be less accurate because of the lapse in time and memory.

Research Evaluation Methods

Evaluation research can include a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods depending on your objectives. 

A market research company, like Drive Research, can design an approach to best meet your goals, objectives, and budget for a successful study.

Below we share different approaches to evaluation research.

But, here is a quick graphic that explains the main differences between qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.

qualitative vs quantitative data

Quantitative Research Methods

Quantitative evaluation research aims to measure audience feedback.

Metrics quantitative market research often measures include:

  • Level of impact
  • Level of awareness
  • Level of satisfaction
  • Level of perception
  • Expected usage
  • Usage of competitors

In addition to other metrics to gauge the success of a program or strategy. 

This type of evaluation research can be done through online surveys or phone surveys. 

Online surveys

Perhaps the most common form of quantitative research, online surveys are extremely effective for gathering feedback. 

They are commonly used for evaluation research because they offer quick, cost-effective, and actionable insights.

Typically, the survey is conducted by a third-party online survey company to ensure anonymity and limit bias from the respondents. 

The market research firm develops the survey, conducts fieldwork, and creates a report based on the results.

For instance, here is the online survey process followed by Drive Research when conducting program evaluations for our clients.

online survey process by drive research

Phone surveys

Another way to conduct evaluation research is with phone surveys.

This type of market research allows trained interviewers to have one-on-one conversations with your target audience. 

Oftentimes they range from 15 to 30-minute discussions to gather enough information and feedback. 

The benefit of phone surveys for program evaluation research is that interviewers can ask respondents to explain their answers in more detail. 

Whereas, an online survey is limited to multiple-choice questions with pre-determined answer options (with the addition of a few open ends). 

Though, online surveys are much faster and more cost-effective to complete.

Recommended Reading: What is the Most Cost-Effective Market Research Methodology?

Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative evaluation research aims to explore audience feedback.

Factors quantitative market research often evaluates include:

  • Attitudes
  • Areas of satisfaction
  • Areas of weaknesses
  • Recommendations

This type of exploratory evaluation research can be completed through in-depth interviews or focus groups.

It involves working with a qualitative recruiting company to recruit specific types of people for the research, developing a specific line of questioning, and then summarizing the results to ensure anonymity.

For instance, here is the process Drive Research follows when recruiting people to participate in evaluation research. 

qualitative recruitment process by drive research

Focus groups

If you are considering conducting qualitative evaluation research, it’s likely that focus groups are your top methodology of choice.

Focus groups are a great way to collect feedback from targeted audiences all at once.

It is also a helpful methodology for showing product markups, logo designs, commercials, and more.

Though, a great alternative to traditional focus groups is online focus groups.

Remote focus groups can reduce the costs of evaluation research because it eliminates many of the fees associated with in-person groups.

For instance, there are no facility rental fees.

Plus, recruiting participants is cheaper because you can cast a wider net being that they can join an online forum from anywhere in the country.

focus group example

In-depth interviews (IDIs)

Similar to focus groups, in-depth interviews gather tremendous amounts of information and feedback from target consumers. 

In this setting though, interviewers speak with participants one-on-one, rather than in a group. 

This level of attention allows interviewers to expand on more areas of what satisfies and dissatisfies someone about a product, service, or program. 

Additionally, it eliminates group bias in evaluation research.

This is because participants are more comfortable providing honest opinions without being intimidated by others in a focus group.

Examples and Types of Evaluation Research

There are different types of evaluation research based on the business and audience type.

Most commonly it is carried out for product concepts, marketing strategies, and programs.

We share a few examples of each below.

Product Evaluation Research Example 

Each year, 95 percent of new products introduced to the market fail. 

product failure stat

Therefore market research for new product development is critical in determining what could deter the success of a concept before it reaches shelves.

Lego is a great example of a brand using evaluation research for new product concepts.

In 2011 they learned 90% of their buyers were boys. 

Although boys were not their sole target demographic, the brand had more products that were appealing to this audience such as Star Wars and superheroes. 

To grow its audience, Lego conducted evaluation research to determine what topics and themes would entice female buyers.

With this insight, Lego launched Lego Friends. It included more details and features girls were looking for. 

Marketing Evaluation Research Example 

Marketing evaluation research or campaign evaluation surveys is a technique used to measure the effectiveness of advertising and marketing strategies. 

An example of this would be surveying a target audience before and after launching a paid social media campaign. 

Brands can determine if factors such as awareness, perception, and likelihood to purchase have changed due to the advertisements. 

Recommended Reading: Advertising Testing with Market Research

Process Evaluation Research Example

Process evaluations are commonly used to understand the implementation of a new program.

It helps decision-makers evaluate how a program’s goal or outcome was achieved. 

Additionally, process evaluation research quantifies how often the program was used, who benefited from the program, the resources used to implement the new process, any problems encountered, and more.

Examples of programs and processes where evaluation research is beneficial are:

  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Client referral programs
  • Customer retention programs
  • Workplace wellness programs
  • Orientation of new employees
  • Employee buddy programs 

Evaluation Research Questions

Evaluation research design sets the tone for a successful study.

It is important to ask the right questions in order to achieve the intended results. 

Product evaluation research questions include:

  • How appealing is the following product concept?
  • If available in a store near you, how likely are you to purchase [product]?
  • Which of the following packaging types do you prefer?
  • Which of the following [colors, flavors, sizes, etc.] would you be most interested in purchasing?

Marketing evaluation research questions include:

  • Please rate your level of awareness for [Brand].
  • What is your perception of [Brand]?
  • Do you remember seeing advertisements for [Brand] in the past 3 months?
  • Where did you see or hear the advertising for [Brand]? ie. Facebook, TV, radio, etc.
  • How likely are you to make a purchase from [Brand]?

Process evaluation research questions include:

  • Please rate your level of satisfaction with [Process].
  • Please explain why you provided [Rating].
  • What barriers existed to implementing [Process]?
  • How likely are you to use [Process] moving forward?
  • Please rate your level of agreement with the following statement: I find a lot of value in [Process].

While these are great examples of what evaluation research questions to ask, keep in mind they should be reflective of your unique goals and objectives. 

Our evaluation research company can help design, program, field, and analyze your survey to assure you are using quality data to drive decision-making.

Contact Our Evaluation Research Company

Wondering if continuing an employee or customer program is still offering value to your organization? Or, perhaps you need to determine if a new product concept is working as effectively as it should be. Evaluation research can help achieve these objectives and plenty of others. 

Drive Research is a full-service market research company specializing in evaluation research through surveys, focus groups, and IDIs. Contact our team by filling out the form below or emailing [email protected].


emily taylor about the author

Emily Taylor

As a Research Manager, Emily is approaching a decade of experience in the market research industry and loves to challenge the status quo. She is a certified VoC professional with a passion for storytelling.

Learn more about Emily, here.

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