Some of the most confused terminologies within the Research, Monitoring and Evaluation field are the words, “input”, “activities”, “outputs”,” outcomes” and “impact”. Within the R, M&E practice, it is important to distinguish between these terms. Understanding these terminologies not only ensures that appropriate indicators are identified, but also that they are effectively measured. Here, we will use specific project cases to demonstrate the difference between these terms.


Inputs are very often confused to be synonymous with activities. However, these terms are not interchangeable. Inputs, in simple terms, are those things that we use in the project to implement it. For example, in any project, inputs would include things like human resource (personnel), finances in the form of money, machinery such a vehicles, and equipment such as public address systems among others. Inputs ensure that it is possible to deliver the intended results of a project.



Activities on the other hand are actions associated with delivering project goals. In other words, they are what the personnel/employees do in order to achieve the aims of the project. In a HIV and AIDS project, for example, activities would include things such as conducting community meetings to sensitize the public on prevention measures, installing condom dispensers at hot-spots, collecting periodic data to monitor project progress among others.


These are the first level of results associated with a project. Often confused with “activities”, outputs are the direct immediate term results associated with a project. In other words, they are usually what the project has achieved in the short term. An easy way to think about outputs is to quantify the project activities that have a direct link on the project goal. For example, project outputs in a HIV and AIDS project would be: the number of community awareness meetings that were done, the number of condom dispensers installed, number of HIV and AIDS infected persons referred for ARTs among others.


This is the second level of results associated with a project and refers to the medium term consequences of the project. Outcomes usually relate to the project goal or aim.  For example, in a safe water project, an outcome would be “the percentage of households that are using chlorinated drinking water”. Another outcome could be “the percentage of children suffering from diarrhea.” Nevertheless, an important point to note is that, outcomes should clearly link to project goals.


It is the third level of project results, and is the long term consequence of a project.  Most often than not, it is very difficult to ascertain the exclusive impact of a project since several other projects, not similar in nature can lead to the same impact. An example of an impact would be reduced poverty rates, reduced child mortality rates among others. In the case of the Safe Water project, an increase in the number of households using treated water would directly impact on fewer cases of people suffering from diarrhea, meaning that there will be a reduced number of lost man-hours. This has a direct impact on poverty reduction. Also, the number of children suffering from diarrhea may reduce, meaning that the cases of child deaths are reduced.




  1. M&E Blog (2013), Selecting Project Indicators, here
  2. http://www.thepresidency.gov.za/learning/reference/framework/part3.pdf


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  1. This has been quite enlightening indeed, keep up the good work

  2. Upul Ranaweera

    According to my knowledge, “the percentage of households that are using chlorinated drinking water” is rather an indicator than an outcome. Increased access to chlorinated drinking water can be an outcome since it shows a change. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  3. Elegbe Ayorinde

    Explanations so helpful. Just what have been looking for with precise examples. Thank you

  4. inga

    thanks,it was useful

  5. c.doreswamy

    Can you explain with an example of same activity for input, activities ,output, outcome and Impact

  6. Mahama Hamza

    This is great. Explanations are very clear and understandable. Good work

  7. Amanda

    please i am a student in a tertiary institution and i would like to know more on proposal writing and project implementation. Any help?

  8. indicators are missing in all level and you should share more examples.

  9. James Paradza

    i found this very helpful .i have been struggling to differentiate the terms.

  10. In the Logical Framework of Results Based Budgeting (RBB), can we convincingly agree that the output measures inputs that are used to produce outcome? (using chlorinated drinking water)

  11. Ipyana Phiri

    Very helpful piece of writing, the information shared will go a long way. Thank you.

  12. John kayali

    Thanks for z data. It was very interesting and good to my course work at university

  13. Aliyu

    Great,I need to be referring to these explanations though, in trying to come to terms with them when operating projects. Thanks for this great resource material.

  14. Moses Abu

    Thanks. This is really useful

  15. Pragati Gajbhiye

    Thank you very much for this documents, Its really helpful for my project,
    Is any information available on follow up

  16. william gatluak

    Thank you so much for the wonderful information you deliver.it help me in my training in monitoring & evaluation.

  17. atiku isaac simon


  18. Saheed Benson

    I really appreciate this educative points.
    I work as an M&E in an Health NGO in Nigeria.
    Let us have a group Whatsapp for further discussions.
    My Whatsapp number +2348069638485

  19. Nyeapa Yakubu

    What a strong guide, this is really helpful to me and my project.

  20. Sam G Biayee

    very rewarding,thanks!

  21. satar

    what is difference between impact and shot term outcome, long term outcome and mid term outcome.

  22. Bashbash Barwaqo

    Very easy to understand to the point and examples that can easily be identified with. Thank you.

  23. Thanks a lot. this has been very educative

  24. Metkal

    very interesting discussion

  25. I like the way things are being presented here and am very sure this platform will help me a lot.

    Please help me understand the following and what makes them differ if at all there is any difference.
    (1) Indicators of program monitoring and
    (2) Indicators of program evaluation.

    WhatsApp #; +265-884-753-002

  26. Yarseer Mulbah

    This is indeed educative

  27. Steve ngigi

    Wonderful insight. Try also giving a poverty reduction proposal sample.

  28. Babar raza

    Hi i am NGO working from Pakistan, can anyone send the precise defination of what is outcome, output and outcome indicators

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