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What are different ways research can be used?

Research use is more likely to happen when it is intentional. For this reason, it is important for partnerships to anticipate the various ways research can be used. Some include:

  • Instrumental Uses: Research findings can support specific decisions—for instance, which program to adopt, how to allocate resources, or whether to support a reform effort.
  • Conceptual Uses: Research helps leaders understand and frame the issues they are confronting. More indirect than instrumental uses of research, conceptual uses occur when research influences how decision makers orient themselves to a problem or potential solutions.
  • Process Uses: Building on earlier writing, Maciolek (2015) describes how “Process use emphasizes how the design and conduct of research, rather than just its findings, might be used by both policy makers and practitioners. Engagement in research processes can lead to changes in ways of thinking and in ways of behaving among individuals and throughout organizations.”
  • Political Uses: Sometimes decision makers have already developed their stance on an issue, and research can be used to provide support for the stance. Research can be used to persuade others to also adopt the position.

See: The Uses of Research in Policy and Practice.

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Using Research