What are Indicators and Types of Indicators?


Indicators are clues, signs or markers that measure one aspect of a program and show how close a program is to its desired path and outcomes. Indicators are realistic and measurable criteria of project progress. They should be defined before the project starts, and allow us to monitor or evaluate whether a project does what it said it would do. In project planning; indicators form the link between theory and practice. An indicator is a tool to help you to know whether your work is making a difference. Indicators usually describe observable changes or events which relate to the project intervention. They provide the evidence that something has happened – whether an output delivered, an immediate effect occurred or a long-term change observed.

Types of Indicators

Indicators can be classified as follows:

  1. Quantitative Indicators (Output Indicators)
  2. Qualitative Indicators (Outcome / Performance Indicators)

1. Quantitative Indicators / Output Indicators:

Indicators that tell us whether the activities and actions we have planned are actually happening as intended are known as Output Indicators. These types of indicators will help you to monitor whether you are doing what you planned (outputs) but do not give us an idea of the effect that is brought about by these outputs. That is why it is important to monitor both the implementation of our actions and the changes that we think are being produced as a result – positive or negative, intended or unintended.

Quantitative indicators can be expressed in a number of ways, depending on the data involved and its use. These can include whole numbers, decimals, ratios, fractions, percentages and monetary values — quantitative factors can always be expressed as a number. Qualitative indicators, on the other hand, are expressed as either independent statements or as relative terms such as "good," "better," and "best."

Examples of Quantitative Indicators can be:

  1. The number of people attending a training
  2. The weight of fish caught
  3. Unemployment (By age, gender, Occupation)
  4. Per Capita Income
  5. No. of Community Organizations
  6. Rates of HIV Infection
  7. The average rice harvest per hectare
  8. The cost of transport to market
  9. Increase in household income
  10. Infant Mortality Rate

2. Performance Indicators / Qualitative Indicators:

Qualitative indicators are usually indicators of change (outcomes). Answering these types of questions give us information that indicates whether our work is leading to the changes in people’s lives, power and rights that we want to achieve.

Quantitative indicators can be defined as measure of quantity, such as the number of people who own sewing machines in a village. Qualitative indicators can be defined as people’s judgements and perceptions about a subject, such as the confidence those people have in sewing machines as instruments of financial independence. Qualitative indicators are non-numerical factors for determining level of progress towards a specific goal. Qualitative data is based on opinions, feelings or viewpoints rather than hard facts or numbers. These factors are used to measure things that have no numerical constant, like a group’s sense of hope for the future. An indicator is a segment of information that gives a sense of the direction to the information — such as whether the feeling of hope is greater or less than in the same time in the previous year. Indicators are used to determine how quickly a process is happening or how close a process is to completion.

The term ‘qualitative indicators’ is made up of two very important research concepts. Qualitative and quantitative information make up the two types of discoverable information. Quantitative is generally the easiest to understand and manipulate since it is based on numbers and hard facts. When information can’t be measured or reproduced, then it is typically qualitative. Examples of Qualitiative or Perfomance Indicators are as follows:

  1. Greater freedom of expression
  2. Ease of access to a facility
  3. Participation in Youth Groups
  4. Participation Levels in Sports
  5. Increased Hopes of the people towards betterment of the democratic systems
  6. Women’s participation in decision making
  7. Improved working relations among staff
  8. Level of Satisfaction with the services

The results of the qualitative indicators are usually expressed as percentage change e.g.% increase in proper hand-washing practices.

The bottom line is that quantitative indicators are numerical while qualitative indicators convey information in textual or descriptive form, which can include both statements of fact as well as statements of opinion.