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A Systematic Approach

Eighth Edition

December 2018 | 360 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
The long-awaited new edition is here!  

Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, by Peter H. Rossi, Mark W. Lipsey, and Gary T. Henry, is the best-selling comprehensive introduction to the field of program evaluation, covering the range of evaluation research activities used in appraising the design, implementation, effectiveness, and efficiency of social programs. Evaluation domains are presented in a coherent framework that not only explores each, but recognizes their interrelationships, their role in improving social programs and the outcomes they are designed to affect, and their embeddedness in social and political context.   

Relied on as the “gold standard” by professors, students, and practitioners for 40 years, the new Eighth Edition includes a new practical chapter on planning an evaluation, entirely new examples throughout, and a major re-organization of the book’s content to better serve the needs of program evaluation courses.  

“The Eighth Edition of Evaluation is a massive improvement on an already stellar text. The breadth and depth of coverage—while still keeping a practical focus—make this the go-to book for program evaluation classes and practitioners alike.”   —B. Andrew Chupp, Indiana University

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About the Authors
1. What Is Program Evaluation and Why Is It Needed?
What Is Program Evaluation?

Why Is Program Evaluation Needed?

Systematic Program Evaluation

The Central Role of Evaluation Questions

The Five Domains of Evaluation Questions and Methods


Key Concepts

2. Social Problems and Assessing the Need for a Program
The Role of Evaluators in Diagnosing Social Conditions and Service Needs

Defining the Problem to Be Addressed

Specifying the Extent of the Problem: When, Where, and How Big?

Defining and Identifying the Target Populations of Interventions

Describing Target Populations

Describing the Nature of Service Needs


Key Concepts

3. Assessing Program Theory and Design
Evaluability Assessment

Describing Program Theory

Eliciting Program Theory

Assessing Program Theory

Possible Outcomes of Program Theory Assessment


Key Concepts

4. Assessing Program Process and Implementation
What Is Program Process Evaluation and Monitoring?

Perspectives on Program Process Monitoring

Assessing Service Utilization

Assessing Organizational Functions


Key Concepts

5. Measuring and Monitoring Program Outcomes
Program Outcomes

Identifying Relevant Outcomes

Measuring Program Outcomes

Monitoring Program Outcomes


Key Concepts

6. Impact Evaluation: Isolating the Effects of Social Programs in the Real World
The Nature and Importance of Impact Evaluation

When Is an Impact Evaluation Appropriate?

What Would Have Happened Without the Program?

The Logic of Impact Evaluation: The Potential Outcomes Framework

The Fundamental Problem of Causal Inference: Unavoidable Missing Data


Key Concepts

7. Impact Evaluation: Comparison Group Designs
Bias in Estimation of Program Effects

Potential Advantages of Comparison Group Designs

Comparison Group Designs for Impact Evaluation

Cautions About Quasi-Experiments for Impact Evaluation


Key Concepts

8. Impact Evaluation: Designs With Strict Controls on Program Access
Controlling Selection Bias by Controlling Access to the Program

Key Concepts in Impact Evaluation

When Is Random Assignment Ethical and Practical?

Application of the Regression Discontinuity Design

Choosing an Impact Evaluation Design


Key Concepts

9. Detecting, Interpreting, and Exploring Program Effects
The Magnitude of a Program Effect

Detecting Program Effects

Examining Variation in Program Effects

The Role of Meta-Analysis


Key Concepts

10. Assessing the Economic Efficiency of Programs
Key Concepts in Efficiency Analysis

Conducting Cost-Benefit Analyses

Conducting Cost-Effectiveness Analyses


Key Concepts

11. Planning an Evaluation
Evaluation Purpose and Scope

Data Collection, Acquisition, and Management

Data Analysis Plan

Communication Plan

Project Management Plan


Key Concepts

12. The Social and Political Context of Evaluation
The Social Ecology of Evaluations

The Profession of Evaluation

Evaluation Standards, Guidelines, and Ethics

Utilization of Evaluation Results

Epilogue: The Future of Evaluation


Key Concepts

Author Index
Subject Index


Instructor Teaching Site


Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • Editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides that offer flexibility when creating multimedia lectures so you don’t have to start from scratch but you can customize to your exact needs
  • Essay questions that assess students’ understanding and application of the concepts can be given as homework or exams. Suggested answers are included to facilitate grading.

Open-access Student Resources include:

  • Carefully-selected journal articles to illustrate the concepts presented in each chapter.

“This thoughtfully-designed text provides an update on a classic tool for understanding evaluation.”

Brian Boggs
Michigan State University, and University of Michigan-Flint

“This is another exceptional work by the authors. This book not only helps novice evaluators, it also provides tools for expert evaluators. This new edition brings new cases and exhibits that connect the theory to practice and contextualizes the content for students: students can visualize and understand the content as they relate it to their own professional lives.”

Osman Özturgut
California State University Channel Islands

“The material in the Eighth Edition is effectively sequenced, and the technical orientation of the chapters makes the book an indispensable partner even for seasoned scholars and practitioners in the art of program evaluation.”

Kalu Kalu
Auburn University at Montgomery

“I have used previous editions of this text either as a student or professor for 20 years. This new edition is a great update of a reliable textbook on evaluation, including updated terminology and methodology.”

Kimberley Shoaf
University of Utah

“The Eighth Edition of Evaluation is a massive improvement on an already stellar text. The breadth and depth of coverage—while still keeping a practical focus—make this the go-to book for program evaluation classes and practitioners alike.”

B. Andrew Chupp
Indiana University

Haven't seen anything better - really useful and clear.

Dr Richard Wiebe
Behavioral Sciences Dept, Fitchburg State University
September 27, 2019
Key features


  • A new chapter provides practical guidance for planning an evaluation with a discussion of the various components of an evaluation plan, from expressing its purpose and design to planning the communication of the findings to achieve influence. 
  • A revised introductory chapter condenses topics across three chapters to provide a more efficient introduction with an emphasis on the distinctive characteristics of systematic program evaluation research.
  • Expanded coverage of the concepts and methods of impact evaluation in light of its increased attention during the last decade. 
    • More in-depth treatment of evaluation designs that have become more prevalent in recent years is included, such as regression discontinuity and interrupted time series.
    • Employs the potential outcomes framework for explaining contemporary thinking about impact evaluation design and implementation.  
    • Discussion of methods for developing more nuanced perspectives on program effects via analysis of moderators, mediators, and variation in fidelity.
  • End of chapter critical thinking/discussion questions and a set of suggested application exercises for students assist instructors who wish to facilitate the active engagement of students with the issues and concepts covered.
  • Updates and revisions include current exhibits and examples drawn from a wide range of program and policy areas such as from large-scale evaluations, smaller local evaluations, and examples from every corner of the globe.


  • This comprehensive text covers the full range of evaluation efforts including such topics as: 
    • How to frame evaluation questions;
    • Uncovering program theory; 
    • Studying implementation; 
    • Designing impact assessments; 
    • Assessing program costs and benefits; and
    • Understanding the politics of evaluating.
  • The text provides scores of actual examples of how evaluators have dealt with critical evaluation issues.
  • The authors draw upon their decades of hands-on experience in conducting evaluations.
  • The book is written clearly, with all key concepts defined and summarized in a glossary that can serve as a reference.

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