Research Basics

Research is a way to discover new information. Research studies involve examining something systematically to explore or answer a question. Different types of studies can answer different types of questions. Some explore how a program or practice is being implemented (process evaluation), while others focus on whether a program or practice is achieving its intended goals (outcome evaluation). For all types of research studies, the important things to focus on are:

  • Are we asking the right questions? Is this really the problem we want to explore and understand?
  • Can we trust the answer that was reached? Is information from our study valid and reliable?

The way research is conducted affects your ability to trust the answers that you reach. For example, doing a research study with 30 survivors will typically give a better understanding of the true answer than a study involving only one survivor. Likewise, studies conducted over multiple points in time (longitudinal studies) often give better answers than those focused on one point in time (cross-sectional studies). A study done on one rainy day might imply that umbrellas cause rainfall because the two appear together, while a study done over a year can sort out the true situation—people use umbrellas when it rains.

Conducting victim research involves different approaches depending on what information is planned to collect and what questions are hoped to answer. Resources in this section are helpful to learning these different approaches, while the CVR’s glossary offers definitions of key terms.

Tools and Tips

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) offers issue briefs explaining why evaluation can be helpful to domestic violence programs (as well as common fears providers have) and the difference between process and outcome evaluations.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCVetoViolencedivision has a collection of resources to help violence prevention practitioners and others understand and use research evidence. This video on understanding evidence explains the value of research and experiential and contextual knowledge for understanding victim service problems.

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Trainings

The Family Resource Information, Education, and Network Development Service (FRIENDS) offers an online learning center with training courses focused on continuous quality improvement, understanding data, evidence-based programming, and building logic models. Courses are available for free upon completion of the quick registration process.

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The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) offers a four-course data analysis training, including learning how to prepare a survey, create a spreadsheet to enter data, analyze and interpret survey results, and share findings with others. This video gives a brief overview of the series.

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The MNCASA Sexual Violence Justice Institute has an online course, “Are We Making a Difference”, that explains how sexual assault response teams can assess change through evaluation to improve the response to sexual assault and the effectiveness of interventions.

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Glossary

Increase your understanding of common research terms through our Glossary.

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