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A Systematic Approach

Eighth Edition
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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

Available with Perusall—an eBook that makes it easier to prepare for class
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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
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.

For instructors

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