Understanding the Distinct Worlds of Research & Evaluation


Table of Contents

Research and Evaluation are two totally different disciplines, even if they seem similar in concepts, methods and market research tools. Many attempts have been made to conclude which one is better: research or evaluation. The main things that makes it difficult to tell those two apart are – funding, time and the context in which they are used. 

We will further discuss some of the key differences between research and evaluation in a tabular form for better understanding. 

What are the differences between Research and Evaluation?

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By the books, research refers to a systematic study of sources and literature focused on deriving new conclusions and facts. It adds to the existing scientific or social knowledge. The research process will include collecting info using survey software, organizing and analysing the information to expand the knowledge base on a particular topic.

Whereas evaluation means, assessment or a judgement about the number, amount or value of something. It works on some standards that are set to determine the worth and significance of a subject.


When scientists at NASA are working on building a new rocket. They will research about the existing knowledge they have and will look for new solutions to the updated issues.

When an examiner decides to grade the students’ performance on a test. He is evaluating the performance to decide how well the students did.


Research focuses on gaining the conclusions or facts that can be generalized, theoretical outcomes and are controlled by the researchers.

Evaluation focuses on specific and applied knowledge, within the set boundaries and is controlled by those who are funding it.


Research conclusions are made public and known to everyone.

As evaluation is sponsored, it is owned by the funding team.

Data sources

Has the most reliable references.

Depends on the wide range of evidence due to wide field evaluation.


It is used to make macro decisions and generalized ones.

Used for micro decisions which are related to a specific topic or subject.


It roots for how something works and all the knowledge about it.

It focuses on how well and efficiently something works and its significance.


It starts when experts in a particular field decide to take on research for a certain topic.

It is started by a group of sponsors’ or stakeholders and conducted under their guidelines.

Intended results

Research might not tell in advance what the outcome is going to be.

Evaluation has its outcomes pre-defined and checks for it in the data it comes across.


The research is owned by the researcher and the experts who decided to conduct the study.

Evaluation is led by the stakeholders and is owned by them.

Reporting authority

They are reported to stakeholders, higher research experts or even publications.

They are solely reported to the stakeholders or sponsors.

Quality standards

Quality is judged by peers or pre-defined standards that were jotted down before the research.

Quality is judged by the stakeholders for whom the evaluation was started in the first place.

Time framing

It is generally ongoing and doesn’t have time limits, though this is not the case with the funded research.

It starts along with the projects and ends with it as well.

Result applications

It uses the results as proof of conclusions or facts or hypotheses.

Its results are designed to improve efficiency and enhancements.

Theory usage

Research theory can be used for research findings.

It is majorly field-dependent and doesn’t depend on theory.

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Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

Research and Evaluation: ways of seeing the differences between them

In this section, let’s see how research and evaluation are dependent and independent on each other with pictorial depictions using Venn diagrams:

  • Research and Evaluation – mutually independent

Research and evaluation, given their concepts and differences and similarities, are both not mutually exclusive and are unrelated. An event can be both research and evaluation or neither of them. The difference is that research will study how the events occurred and why. But evaluation will see how efficient the event was and what is its merit and worth in the given relevant frame of the subject. 

  • Research that is not evaluation: it includes the collected data that is descriptive and cannot be judged. Like the data gathered in the census, interviews, surveys, etc.

Evaluation that is not research: it makes judgments without paying attention to the collected data. Like when a teacher grades a test, she isn’t concerned about the method of the test taken or the questions. She judges the student’s performance.

  • Evaluation – a subset of research

This includes the research which is not evaluated. They are generally basic research and applied research which doesn’t include evaluative conclusions. In this scenario, evaluation becomes the sub-set of research. 

  • Research – a subset of evaluation

This type considers research as one of the steps in the evaluation process. Along with it, various steps include primary intended users and clarifying their uses. 

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  • Research and evaluation – a dichotomy

It is the best way to see their differences as mutually exclusive. Research depends on how something works and focuses on generalising the knowledge. Whereas evaluation examines what is the merit and worth of something and its significance.

As discussed in the previous sections, both have significantly different ways of working and giving outputs and different purposes. Hence, this is the primary way to see research and evaluation both as mutually exclusive concepts. 

The above-mentioned framing can be used depending on the purpose of the study. It is bound to happen that the event that occurs or activity will fall into some of the other mentioned frames. In that case, it will be helpful to understand if it is a research study or an evaluation study or both, even in some cases. 

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