How to Note: Assessing the Strength of Evidence

A document which explains the best ways to assess evidence to those working on international development programmes.



The “Assessing the Strength of Evidence” How to Note aims to help all DFID staff appreciate better the strength of evidence they are using to inform their policy and programming choices. DFID is making the guidance publically available, as it may be helpful to researchers and policy makers in government departments, research institutes and funding bodies.

Identifying and using high quality research studies isn’t straightforward. The note offers some rules of thumb, helping DFID staff to:

  • understand different types of empirical research evidence
  • appreciate the principles of high quality evidence
  • consider how the context of research findings affects the way that staff might use them
  • understand how to make sense of inconsistent or conflicting evidence

When DFID writes or commissions evidence, it typically differentiates research on the basis of quality and appropriateness to the question, rather than design and method alone.

DFID is therefore encouraging staff and development partners to be clear about the type of research they are citing to support particular claims. That way, the reader of any evidence summary can form their own view about how appropriate the evidence is for the question at hand.

The note is an integral part of DFID’s commitment to equipping staff with the skills to improve their use of evidence. It forms part of several current initiatives to advance staff analytical skills. There are also plans to help staff use evidence and research. This will allow staff to make more informed decisions about how DFID spends taxpayers’ money on viable development projects.

Published 1 February 2013
Last updated 19 March 2014 + show all updates
  1. Revised version (March 2014) added
  2. First published.