Most of the information that comes to us from outside sources requires some translation or reformulation before it is meaningful as a basis for solving specific problems.
This is especially true when the information comes from research reports. The standard research report is an efficient and appropriate medium for communication among researchers, but it is not a good vehicle for communication from research to practice. Therefore, change agents can rarely "accept" a research report as written and expect it to be immediately useful and relevant for their purposes.
The change agent, as the linker between research and practice, should ask questions such as:
A great deal of research is relevant and can be useful if you work hard to think through what it means in terms of the situation you are confronting. It is also worth the effort because research-based information is more likely to be "valid' (facts you can count on as being true) and reliable (equally true at time one and time two, situation one and situation two) than information from non-research sources. Research findings deserve more attention than opinions and conjectures, since they are (or should be) based on systematic observation and measurement of real events.
Approach the task of derivation in as organized a way as you can, starting from the retrieval of relevant materials and proceeding to the formulation of solution ideas. One possible sequence would be as follows:
Research reports have various purposes (see again the D-A-E-T-E-I-M formulation in Stage 3), but when you are looking for solution ideas the most important part of a research report is the summary, particularly the statement of conclusion. The change agent can't afford to spend countless hours checking through procedures and data analyses, and it is inappropriate for you to use your time in this way at this stage. What you need are ideas stated as concisely as you can get them. Therefore, you should focus your acquisition efforts on abstracts or review articles that give the most abbreviated statements of "findings." If you cannot lay your hands on good summaries, you should try to get someone to help you who has a good grasp of the literature and can find and organize such summary statements for you.
Once you have a good list of "findings" generally relevant to your concern, you should discuss with your client what the research is trying to say. Try to summarize what is being said in your own words. It is only in this way that you will begin to have a feel for what these findings mean. If you can get the client actively involved in the process of summarizing, so much the better.
When you have figured out what the researcher was trying to say (Step 2), you should then begin to match these statements with your diagnosis. The question now becomes, "How does this finding relate to, or explain, what we have observed as a problem in the client system?" Again, it is a good idea to proceed systematically from point to paint, discussing each finding and writing down summary statements of these paints of relevance. This exercise will further serve to internalize and concertize your understanding of the research findings.
The most important part of derivation is stating implications in concrete behavioral terms as ideas for action and problem solution. This is a challenging and difficult assignment, and researchers usually do not give us much help with it. Researchers tend to be very cautious in drawing conclusions, in part because they want to make sure that what they say is thoroughly based on observed fact. Nevertheless, change agents and their clients can use research-based generalizations to stimulate their own thinking. Again it takes some practice to learn how to derive action possibilities from research, but it is usually worth the effort.
In Step T-2 we stress the utility of abstracts and brief summary statements of research findings as the raw material for building research-based solutions. Although many other parts of research reports, procedures, data analysis, interpretations, etc., may sometimes stimulate our thinking about solutions, the summary is the best starting point for deriving implications.
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