1. What is evidence?

Evidence is defined in many different ways. When we think about evidence based decision-making in particular, evidence is defined as information or facts that are systematically obtained (i.e., obtained in a manner that is replicable, observable, credible and verifiable) for use in making judgments or decisions (adapted from Rycroft-Malone et al, 2004 & Brownson et al., 2009). This definition of evidence applies to best available research evidence as well as contextual and experiential evidence.

2. What is Best Available Research Evidence?

Best available research evidence is information that enables researchers, practitioners and policy-makers to determine whether or not a prevention program, practice or policy is actually achieving its intended outcomes. Best available research evidence can also help to determine whether or not a prevention strategy is harmful. The more rigorous a study (e.g. true/quasi-experimental design, independent replication), the more compelling the research evidence is indicating whether or not a program, practice or policy is effectively preventing violence. The extent to which a prevention strategy has been replicated in multiple, applied settings with diverse populations (external/ecological validity), and the availability and accessibility of implementation supports (implementation guidance) are also important aspects of best available research evidence.

3. Where can you find Best Available Research Evidence?

Registries of evidence-based programs are the best place to start when looking to find programs based on the best available research evidence. Technical assistance resource centers, which are typically tailored toward a particular area of violence prevention, also provide a variety of different resources for identifying prevention strategies based on the best available research evidence. In circumstances when there is very little research evidence on effective prevention strategies, technical assistance resource centers can also be very helpful. Technical assistance resource centers may aid in identifying known risk and protective factors and sound theories of change for your area of violence to guide your programmatic efforts as well as resources for evaluating them. A list of these registries and technical assistance resource centers can be found in the resource section.

4. What is Experiential Evidence?

Experiential evidence is the collective experience and expertise of those who have practiced or lived in a particular setting. It also includes the knowledge of subject matter experts. These insights, understandings, skills, and expertise are accumulated over time and are often referred to as intuitive or tacit knowledge. Experiential evidence is systematically gathered from multiple stakeholders who are familiar with a variety of key aspects about specific settings, and who have knowledge about the community in which a prevention strategy is to be implemented (i.e., knowledge about what has/has not worked previously in a specific setting with particular populations; insight into potential implementation challenges; insight regarding the needs and challenges of the community and those who live in it).

5. Where can you find Experiential Evidence?

Experiential evidence is unique in that it must be intentionally and systematically elicited from a diverse array of key stakeholders in response to a particular decision-making situation. Some examples of data sources and methods for gathering experiential evidence include: reflective questions, communities of practice, expert panels, and team decision-making and other consensus processes.

6. What is Contextual Evidence?

Contextual evidence is a collection of measurable factors in the community that may impact the success of a prevention strategy (e.g., community history, organizational capacity, social norms, etc.). The role that contextual evidence plays in the evidence based decision-making process is to provide information to help determine whether a prevention strategy is likely to be acceptable, feasible, and useful in a local setting. Contextual evidence can be gathered from a variety of local data sources and offers a “snapshot” of measurable community characteristics that may impact a particular decision. Some examples of data sources and methods for collecting contextual evidence include: census data, local administrative data (hospital, school, and law enforcement), community needs/assets assessments, surveys, and focus groups/interviews.

7. Where can you find Contextual Evidence?

Information on contextual factors that are relevant to your decision (contextual evidence) can be gathered from existing sources of data such as census data or administrative data (e.g. school records, hospital data, law enforcement data). New data on context can also be gathered through surveys, community assessments, focus groups, and interviews.

8. Why is it important to include Best Available Research Evidence, Experiential Evidence, and Contextual Evidence when making decisions about prevention?

The goal of evidence based decision-making is to bring a high standard of research evidence into the decision-making process while taking into account the contextual and experiential factors that influence decisions for prevention.

9. What makes Understanding Evidence unique?

Understanding Evidence is the first online tool of its kind. This free, online resource offers local practitioners and others working to prevent violence knowledge and resources for using evidence in their decision-making processes.

10. Why was this tool developed?

Understanding Evidence is meant to support critical thinking skills in practitioners to help them make evidence-informed decisions around violence prevention. Specifically, upon completion of Understanding Evidence the learner will be able to: 1. define the three types of evidence involved in evidence based decision-making; 2. identify standards of rigor across the key dimensions that make up the best available research evidence; 3. identify sources of and ways to collect best available research evidence, contextual evidence, and experiential evidence; and 4. identify key stages and characteristics of an evidence based decision-making process.

11. Who is the intended audience for this course?

Understanding Evidence is designed primarily for violence prevention practitioners, but anyone working to prevent violence in their communities will find the information useful including CDC grantees, researchers, program evaluators, technical assistance providers, and decision-makers.

12. How do I receive free continuing education credits?

To obtain continuing education credits for Understanding Evidence, you must complete all the lesson modules. However, you can review the content in any order you wish. A progress bar at the top of the screen will keep track of the modules you have reviewed on an ongoing basis so that you can monitor your overall progress. After you finish all four modules, you will be linked directly to CDC’s Training and Continuing Education online system. Here you will register to receive a certificate of completion for continuing education credits. There is no cost to you for receiving continuing education credits for Understanding Evidence.