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Understanding the “what should be condition” in needs assessment data


  • White, Jeffry L.
  • Altschuld, James W.


In needs assessment (N/A), the calculation of discrepancies is based on the assumption the “what should be” condition is a reasonable representation of respondent perceptions. That assumption may be erroneous and requires a closer inspection. This paper examines the use of importance scores in NA and some of the problems that can arise when they are used as a proxy to measure the “what should be” condition. A review of the literature and ways of dealing with importance scores are presented, followed by a discussion of the problems and issues that can arise. Some solution strategies are offered along with recommendations for practice and research. The paper provides guidance for others interested in improving needs assessment procedures.

Suggested Citation

  • White, Jeffry L. & Altschuld, James W., 2012. "Understanding the “what should be condition” in needs assessment data," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 124-132.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:epplan:v:35:y:2012:i:1:p:124-132
    DOI: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2011.09.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lee, Yi-Fang & Altschuld, James W. & White, Jeffry L., 2007. "Effects of multiple stakeholders in identifying and interpreting perceived needs," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 1-9, February.
    2. Lee, Yi-Fang & Altschuld, James W. & White, Jeffry L., 2007. "Problems in needs assessment data: Discrepancy analysis," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 258-266, August.
    3. Fisher, Robert J, 1993. " Social Desirability Bias and the Validity of Indirect Questioning," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(2), pages 303-315, September.
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