This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at danawanzer.com
This blog post is a modified segment of my dissertation, done under the supervision of Dr. Tiffany Berry at Claremont Graduate University. You can read the full dissertation on the Open Science Framework here. The rest of the blog posts in this series on my dissertation are linked below:
- Factors that promote use: A conceptual framework
- Defining evidence use
- Overview of my dissertation study: sample, recruitment, & measures
- Question 1: To what extent are interpersonal and research factors related to use?
- Question 2: To what extent do interpersonal factors relate to use beyond research factors?
- Question 3: How do researchers and evaluators differ in use, interpersonal factors, and research factors?
Broadly speaking, researchers and evaluators are all interested in promoting evidence use. However, use is a multifaceted concept, and there are a multitude of frameworks defining different types of use (Nutley et al., 2007). Researchers are often most interested in instrumental use or using evidence directly to make changes in programming or in decision-making (Nutley et al., 2007). However, Weiss (1979) recognized early on that instrumental use did not occur frequently and instead proposed conceptual use, or using evidence to influence one’s thinking or attitudes about the problem (Carol H. Weiss & Bucuvalas, 1980). Some researchers have promoted the idea of a continuum of use that goes from conceptual uses (e.g., increased awareness, knowledge, and understanding) to more instrumental uses (e.g., shifts in attitudes, perceptions, and ideas; changes in practice and policy; Nutley et al., 2007).
With the realization that use is not limited to the findings of research or evaluation, process use—the behavioral (e.g., instrumental) or cognitive (e.g., conceptual) changes after participating in a research or evaluation endeavor (Patton, 1997)—was promoted as another type of use that occurs as a result of participating in the decision-making of a research or evaluation study. Both findings and process use can lead to instrumental and conceptual use (Alkin & King, 2016, 2017).
Other types of use also exist. For instance, there are longer-term, more incremental uses such as influence (i.e., research or evaluation producing effects by intangible or indirect means; Kirkhart, 2000) and enlightenment (i.e., the gradual change of ideas into the organization after a longer time period than conceptual use; Weiss, 1977). There are primarily political uses such as symbolic (i.e., commissioning research or evaluation without intent in applying the results; Leviton & Hughes, 1981), legitimative (i.e., used to justify decisions already made about the organization; Patton, 2008), persuasive (i.e., using evidence to support one’s position; Leviton & Hughes, 1981), and imposed use (i.e., a higher-level authority mandates some form of evidence use; (Carol Hirschon Weiss, Murphy-Graham, & Birkeland, 2005). Use can also not occur (i.e., nonuse) or could be used inappropriately (i.e., misuse) or in unintended ways (i.e., unintended use) (Patton, 2008).
Rather than focusing on “promoting evidence use,” I encourage you to think critically about what type of use you want to happen and how you will promote that particular type of use. For example, in my dissertation study I found that relationship quality was related to instrumental, conceptual, and process use, but relevance was only related to instrumental and conceptual use and commitment to use was only related to process use. This suggests specific factors relate to specific types of use.