Life offers many lessons — learning experiences that help guide future decisions. Wouldn’t it be nice to have these lessons in advance, before venturing along the wrong path? Evidence-based research uses that approach, paying attention to proven signs that simplify and qualify the research process.
Researchers have found a way to use existing theories and ideas to aid their future research. It’s a combination of science and experience, exploring the possibilities while respecting sound facts.
By basic definition, evidence is proof supporting a theory. It is the smoking gun and bullet taken from the crime scene. In other words, the gun and bullet (evidence) support the victim’s death by gunshot wound (theory).
Consider, however, the definition of theory -- a fact-based explanation. This means the victim’s death by gunshot wound is a theory ascertained by reviewing many variables, one of which is evidence.
Research is the investigation, collection and interpretation of facts. However, research is conducted in many ways depending on the field and its accepted methods.
Legal research involves studying previously decided cases, examining evidence and compiling material that will support or disprove a case. The legal field requires case precedence (previously decided cases) as part of research.
In the field of science, research often involves on-site work as well as case studies. Scientific research can be lengthy and involve experimentation. It applies an entirely different research process.
Having explored the meaning of evidence and research, these words help define evidence-based research. In most cases, evidence-based research is used to describe a type of research where the researcher is aware of certain evidence before exploring the subject.
In short, the researcher does not enter the project unbiased — he or she is aware of a theory derived from the evidence and uses research to test its validity.
Using Evidence-Based Research
Why would an organization want evidence-based research? Most likely, they want to assure the researcher uses qualified material (studies and prior research from industry-recognized sources). In addition, applying previously known theories saves the expense of starting from scratch; the researcher can use what is already known and move forward.
Consider, for example, the Society of Prevention Science, who not only requires evidence-based research, but specifies where to obtain the evidence. They avoid the use of unqualified evidence by specifying reputable sources.
The term "evidence-based" carries different meanings for different industries; however, the common thread seems to be an unbiased approach and the combination of traditional research and factual evidence.
Traditional research supports approaching a project with no preconceived notions. By adding evidence, the approach may not remain unbiased, but valuable knowledge is carried into the project.