Diagnostic Assumptions

  • Apollo M. Nkwake


Diagnostic assumptions are stated as stakeholder expectations or beliefs about the major and minor causes of core problems. Because an intervention to address a problem is based on the causes of that problem, diagnostic assumptions are crucial to a normative theory and need to be examined from design, implementation, and evaluation perspectives. This chapter appraises the use of the policy scientific approach in explicating diagnostic assumptions and proposes an alternative causes approach.


Diagnostic assumptions Program theory assumptions Normative assumptions Problematization Explicating diagnostic assumptions Alternative causes approach Alternative cause matrix 


  1. Archibald, T. (2019). What’s the problem represented to be? Problem definition critique as a tool for evaluative thinking. American Journal of Evaluation, 1–14.Google Scholar
  2. Berberet, H. M. (2006). Putting the pieces together for queer youth: A model of integrated assessment. Child Welfare, 85(2), 361–377.Google Scholar
  3. Chen, H. T. (2005). Practical program evaluation: Assessing and improving planning, implementation, and effectiveness. London, UK: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Editorial Comment. (1923). Fundamental assumptions. Educational Research Bulletin, 2(16), 276. Retrieved from Scholar
  5. Ehren, M. C. M., Leeuw, F. L., & Scheerens, J. (2005). On the impact of the Dutch Educational Supervision Act. Analyzing assumptions concerning the inspection of primary education. American Journal of Evaluation, 26(1), 60–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. European Commission (EC). (2001). Project cycle management training courses handbook. Brussels, Belgium: EC. Retrieved from Scholar
  7. Fitzpatrick, J. (2002). Dialogue with Stewart Donaldson. American Journal of Evaluation, 23(3), 347–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hovland, I. (2005). Successful communication: A toolkit for researchers and civil society organisations. London, UK: Overseas Development Institute (ODI).Google Scholar
  9. Kautto, P., & Similä, J. (2005). Recently introduced policy instruments and intervention theories. Evaluation, 11(1), 55–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kouevi, A. T., Van Mierlo, B., Leeuwis, C., & Vodouhe, S. D. (2013). The design of a contextualized responsive evaluation framework for fishery management in Benin. Evaluation and Program Planning, 36, 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kruse-Levy, N., Senefeld, S., Sitha, A., & Arturo, A. (2007). Bridges of Hope socioeconomic reintegration project report of a follow-up survey with clients living with HIV and AIDS. Catholic Relief Services (CRS): Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  12. Leeuw, F. L. (2003). Reconstructing program theories: Methods available and problems to be solved. American Journal of Evaluation, 24(1), 5–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lozare, B. V. (2010). Summative evaluation surveys: Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda. Catholic Relief Services-Avoiding Risk, Affirming Life Program. Catholic Relief Services (CRS): Baltimore.Google Scholar
  14. Marcano, L., & Ruprah, I. J. (2008). An impact evaluation of Chile’s progressive housing program. Working Paper: OVE/WP-06/08. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.Google Scholar
  15. Mason, I., & Mitroff, I. (1981). Challenging strategic planning assumptions. New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  16. Mayne, J. (2011). Contribution analysis addressing cause effect. In K. Forss, M. Marra & R. Schwartz (Eds.), Evaluating the complex: Attribute contribution and beyond, New Brunswick (pp. 53–96). New Jersy: Transactional Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Mpulu, M., Judge, D., Nyungula, M., & Leather,C. (2006). Evaluation of Cash Transfer Pilot Project in Western Province, Zambia Oxfam GB Programme Evaluation. Retrieved from;jsessionid=25D0CFE8506EB50D2BA6FFBB7CE01586?sequence=2
  18. Ouane, A. (2002). Key competencies in lifelong learning. Institutionalizing lifelong learning: Creating conducive environments for adult learning in the Asian context. Hamburg, Germany: UNESCO Institute for Education.Google Scholar
  19. Toulmin, S. (1958). The uses of argument. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. van Noije, L., & Wittebrood, K. (2010). Fighting crime by fighting misconceptions and blind spots in policy theories: An evidence-based evaluation of interventions and assumed causal mechanisms. American Journal of Evaluation, 31(4), 499–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wandersmana, A., Imma, P., Chinmanb, M., & Kaftarian, S. (2000). Getting to outcomes: A results-based approach to accountability. Evaluation and Program Planning, 23, 389–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Apollo M. Nkwake
    • 1
  1. 1.Questions LLCMarylandUSA

Personalised recommendations