A Trusted Source of Information: How Systematic Reviews Can Support User Decisions About Adopting Evidence-Based Programs

Publisher: Evaluation Review, vol. 41, no. 1 (subscription required)
Feb 28, 2017
Diane Paulsell, Jaime Thomas, Shannon Monahan, and Neil S. Seftor

Background: Systematic reviews sponsored by federal departments or agencies play an increasingly important role in disseminating information about evidence-based programs and have become a trusted source of information for administrators and practitioners seeking evidence-based programs to implement. These users vary in their knowledge of evaluation methods and their ability to interpret systematic review findings. They must consider factors beyond program effectiveness when selecting an intervention, such as the relevance of the intervention to their target population, community context, and service delivery system; readiness for replication and scale-up; and the ability of their service delivery system or agency to implement the intervention.

Objective: To support user decisions about adopting evidence-based practices, this article discusses current systematic review practices and alternative approaches to synthesizing and presenting findings and providing information.

Method: We reviewed the publicly available information on review methodology and findings for eight federally funded systematic reviews in the labor, education, early childhood, mental health/substance abuse, family support, and criminal justice topic areas.

Conclusion: The eight federally sponsored evidence reviews we examined all provide information that can help users to interpret findings on evidence of effectiveness and to make adoption decisions. However, they are uneven in the amount, accessibility, and consistency of information they report. For all eight reviews, there is room for improvement in supporting users’ adoption decisions through more detailed, accessible, and consistent information in these areas. 

Senior Staff

Shannon Monahan
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Jaime Thomas
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Diane Paulsell
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