Planning Study Terms of Reference

Terms of reference ensure that the study fits with the overall goals of the institution or organization. The terms represent an agreement by everyone involved as to exactly what the study intends by outlining issues, information needs, and the form of the final product. The terms of reference assign roles and specific tasks so that everyone understands what is expected.

They are also the substance of any contractual arrangement with a private consultant, if one is used. Terms of reference allow the client group to supervise and control the study.


Provided by the Group/Organization:


  • What group, organization, committee is responsible for the study?

  • What group(s) is/are represented?

  • What is the essential objective of the group? If a number of groups are involved, have their particular needs been resolved into a consolidated set of goals, or is the study expected to do this?

Community Description

  • Briefly summarize the community and/or physical area to be covered by the study.

  • Summarize the perceived strengths and problems.

Need for study

  • What opportunity(ies), challenge(s), event(s), issue(s), special problem(s) or situation(s) currently exist which make it important that a study be carried out at this time?

Purpose of Study

  • Summarize the purpose of the study (to research, analyze, guide, planning, review priorities and options, make recommendations, identify strategies...)

  • The end product will be ... (a written document, a master plan) which will be used to ... (develop, implement, coordinate).


Provided by the Group/Organization:

A. Time Frame

When will the study begin and end? Are certain stages to be completed at particular intervals? The time frame could be expressed in specific dates or in elapsed time periods (for example, within so many days or weeks of the commencement of the project a specific interim report must be submitted).

In more complicated studies or those resulting in large expenditures, it is useful to provide periods of pause and reflection at a reasonable internals. This allows the client to maintain supervision of the study team and ensures that time (and money) is not wasted on some inappropriate tangent.

B. Pre-Study Schedule

After establishing the terms of reference, to whom are they sent for approval (board of directors/trustees, relevant government agencies, funders)? At what stage will proposals be invited from consultants? Who will review and select proposals? A time frame for this should be noted.

Is there a fund-raising campaign necessary for financing the study? If so, what is the process for that and the time schedule?

C. Roles and Responsibilities

Each principal agency and individual involved in the planning should be listed with a comment as to why the agency or individual is included and what each is expected to contribute. In general this section will identify how and why participation will be fostered within the client organization, government agencies, other institutions or organizations affected by the study, private consultants and the general public. The participants will vary depending on the nature of the subject being studied. What information will be provided to the consultant?

D. Method

How will these various agencies/individuals interrelate? Who is responsible for supervising the development of various aspects of the project of the work of others? (For example, will those involved work as one team in constant contact, individually with periodic meetings, or by funneling their input through a coordinator?) Will a series of interim reports be required (related perhaps to critical pauses noted in the time frame above)? Will all aspects be developed simultaneously or consecutively?

E. End Product

What form will the completed study take (written report, statistical charts, blueprints)? Once completed who will review it and/ or officially accept it?

F. End Use

Once accepted, how will the study be used (to set up a subsequent planning level, raise funds, tender a contract)? Who will it be sent to for review (most probably many of the agencies involved as participants)?


Instruction to the Consultant doing the Study:

Information Needs

A. Inventory of Resources
  • A listing and brief description of all existing heritage organizations, facilities, sites, collections in the study area.

  • A listing and brief description of other existing leisure resources, e.g. parks, resorts, arts and cultural groups, recreation facilities in the area which may impact on the plan. Where do they complement/duplicate one another?

B. Community Participation

The consultant should be able to demonstrate that the following groups were consulted/involved:

  • local and provincial heritage organizations

  • service clubs

  • special interest groups

  • local, provincial and federal government representatives and agencies

  • the general public

Consultation/involvement could include:
  • community representatives on the study team

  • task committees

  • public meetings

  • call for briefs, submissions

  • public surveys

  • review/analysis of already compiled information

C. Market/Visitor Analysis

Should include a preliminary test of the concept with community representatives, government agencies, potential funders.

Summary of current visitation to the site, facility, community or area by month, by season, by mileage radius, or by main routes, broken down by schools, local visitors, or non local visitors.

  • Comparative data may be requested for another facility, community, etc. nearby or in another area.

  • Projections on the type and level of visitation to be expected, both immediate and long-term, based on school populations, local and non-local visitor patterns. Projections should identify and justify market segments with the greatest potential for growth and development.

Information on projected attendance (and attendance revenues) will make it possible to refine the overall scale of the project.

D. Theme/Collections
  • Identification of major historical themes/collections relevant to the site, facility, area; identification of themes/collections currently represented or interpreted at existing sites, etc.; identification of major themes/collections currently under-represented.

  • Recommendations and justification for priorities for development of themes and collections to provide a balanced interpretation of the site, facility, etc.

  • Survey of conservation needs of collections, site, etc and recommendations for priorities for long-term preservation.

E. Programs
  • Summary of existing educational, display, research and extension programs in the facility, community, area.

  • Recommendations regarding the types and levels of programs that could be offered, with priorities and cost implications.

F. Physical Facilities
  • Analysis of existing sites, resources, facilities, etc.

  • Recommendations on the activities, services, functions to be carried out at existing/new sites.

  • Recommendations regarding the minimal level of development which will achieve the aims and objectives of the study.

  • Recommendations regarding phasing of development based on priorities and available resources. Cost implications of each phase.

G. Organizational Requirements
  • Summary of existing organizational structures and staffing.

  • Recommendations regarding organizations structures, coordinating bodies, staffing required to administer the project and its programs.

H. Capital Needs

Preparation of a capital budget which indicates costs for:

  • site acquisition

  • roadways, landscaping, site services

  • building construction, renovation

  • furnishings and equipment

  • exhibit preparation and installation

I. Operating Budget

Preparation of an operating budget which indicates cost projections for the following:

  • administration/coordination

  • operating revenues from all sources

  • salaries and benefits

  • theme development, research and conservation programs

  • exhibition, education and outreach programs

  • supplies and maintenance

  • marketing and public relations

J. Funding Sources and Availability
  • Review of existing funding sources from the community, visitors, private foundations, local provincial and federal levels of government.

  • Contacts with potential funding sources and projections as to what levels of support might be available.

K. Implementation Schedule
  • Recommendations regarding appropriate priorities, scheduling and cost implications for phases of the project.
L. Constraints
  • Are there any financial, policy or programming decisions, other developments, economic forecasts, legislation, political or environmental considerations which may affect the study?

  • What time constraints are there?

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