Reading, Writing, and Interpreting Evaluation Statements of Work (SOWs)

Statements of Work (SOWs),1 are valuable tools to define expectations of M&E practitioners, project timelines, and monitoring and evaluation plans. Overall, the SOW clearly describes project activities and expected outputs and outcomes, goals and purposes, tasks, activities, and deliverables, or workplan.2 Evaluation SOWs outline the negotiable and non-negotiable aspects of a project, such as ‘develop an evaluation plan’ which is more open ended and allows the applicant to propose specific strategies, or ‘submit a report for publication’ which is time-bound to the duration of the SOW. Specifically, an SOW supports and operationalizes the larger Scope of the project.3

Scope of Work
A scope of work can be used similarly to an SOW, to define the roles and expectations of M&E staff and other project staff.4 The scope of the work applies to the general project, the statement that summarizes the evaluation plan: What does the project intend to accomplish? Within what parameters? What methods, tools, and instruments could be or will be employed? In M&E, a scope of work is generally broader than an SOW, but need not be. For instance, the following examples present different uses of scopes of work:

Who Writes SOWs?
Project staff, consultants, and M&E practitioners may write a SOW for external evaluators, consultants, or other future hires.

What Makes a Good SOW?
SOWs, whether for the purpose of presenting the larger scope of the project or the specific scope of an M&E practitioner, must be specific and complete. SOWs focus on what are the project deliverables over a specific period.5 According to USAID,6 the SOW should include background information, evaluation rationale, evaluation design and methodology, evaluation products, team composition, and evaluation management. USAID also publishes a great checklist for building SOWs here. In sum, the SOW is a guide for monitoring the performance of an external contractor or a tool to define the parameters of a given project to enable a smooth and integral relationship between contractor and program.

1USAID defines SOWs specifically as Statements of Work, which is how I use the acronym here. See USAID. (2013). Performance Management Plan (PMP) Toolkit: A guide for missions on planning for, developing, updating, and actively using a PMP.
2Bell, J.B. (2010) Contracting for Evaluation Products and Services. In Wholey, J.S., Hatry, H.P., & K.E. Newcomer, Eds. Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation, 3rd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. p. 630
3Project Management Institute. (2003). Construction: Extension to a guide to the project management (PMBOK® Guide) – 2000 Edition. Newton Square: Author.
4Bell, J.B. (2010) Contracting for Evaluation Products and Services. In Wholey, J.S., Hatry, H.P., & K.E. Newcomer, Eds. Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation, 3rd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
5Conchúir, D.O. (2010). Overview of the PMBOK®: Short cuts for PMP® certification. Heidelberg: Springer.
6USAID. (2011). Evaluation statements of work: Good practice examples. Washington: Author. Retrieved on 1 March 2016 from

About the Author
Ally Krupar is an Adjunct Instructor at American University’s School of Professional and Extended Studies where she teaches Qualitative Methods in Monitoring and Evaluation. She is also a Doctoral Candidate in Adult Education and Comparative International Education at Pennsylvania State University and a Visiting Researcher with RET, an international organization providing secondary and post-secondary education to displaced peoples worldwide. She holds a BA in Anthropology from Case Western Reserve University and an MA from the School of International Service at American University. Follow Ally on Twitter.

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