Evidence-based practice and policy is a relatively new concept in a human service perspective. There is literature on the broad concept of translating such an approach from the medical field to a human service setting, but there is little literature of an evidence-based approach in a child welfare context. The aim of the research was to establish how managers, practitioners and policy-makers in a child welfare context in New South Wales use research to inform practice and policy-making. This thesis addresses an absence of academic literature both nationally and internationally on the topic, and adds to the understanding of the influences on the uptake of evidence-based practice and policy-making.
The research was undertaken by a single case study approach over the period 2007 – 2010. The case study generated both qualitative and quantitative information (via document analysis, focus groups, manager surveys and semi-structured interviews) that was examined in an intensive manner.
This thesis argues that firstly, there are determinants in the three spheres of influence (individual, work environment, and organisational) that impact on research utilisation within the case study organisation; that these three spheres need to be working in conjunction with each other to optimise the environment for research use, and that the organisational sphere of influence is the most integral to ensuring this occurs as it provides the platform or framework for the other spheres of influence to operate in.
Secondly, that the uses of research (instrumental, conceptual and symbolic) are used simultaneously within the case study organisation; they are not static or mutually exclusive; they are dynamic. It is also argued that there is a possible fourth use type of research use which is ‘wider influence’.
Thirdly, the application of research and expert knowledge generally falls into three key areas of informing direct practice outcomes, development work, and professional development practices. This assists the practitioner and policy-maker to legitimise their decision-making and professional judgement in both policy and practice settings, and finally, a new ‘typology of research users’ is proposed.