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 Terms of Reference
By Dr. Nasir Afghan

During the initial contacts with the client and the subsequent preliminary problem diagnosis the student / researchers / consultant should have collected and evaluated enough information to be able to plan the assignment. This is what the client expects at this stage: A TOR (Terms of Reference).

In this initial phase one should be spending enough time and energy to collect information to identify the scope of the project and problems or the objective of the research which requires a solution. This can only be possible with the cooperation of the client staff and the quality of the data found during data collection. If the initial phase findings (TOR) were not correct or were not very clear and acceptable to both the parties, subsequent results will not be useful for the client.

During this initial phase of the project, students should be able to determine not only the key objectives / problems but also the methodology or the implementation strategy of the project. It must be determined that what data must be collected and how it must be collected and what resources are needed from the client? What are the benefits of the successful outcome of the project?

Terms of Reference set out the scope and purpose of the study or the project. In this phase the clients specify their ideas and requirements, which are then used to formulate a TOR. It includes following elements:

Background of the project
The main objectives / tasks
Specific technical inputs or areas of in-depth investigation
Methodology to execute project
Geographic scope and location
Timeline of activities
Project outputs or key deliverables (in the form of a report)
Resources required, both human and financial

TOR must also provide a brief framework of diagnosis phase, design and analysis phase and implementation phase of the project. So the client organization contact person knows exactly what the student / consultant / researcher intend to do in their organization in the coming weeks. Moreover, each phase of the project requires different set of information and activities etc.

When students / consultants / researchers have prepared the TOR, it must be presented to the client to have a consensus on TOR and client feedback is incorporated.