Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reducing the Research-Practice Gap in Domestic Violence

The under-utilization of research by domestic violence practitioners and the lack of attention by researchers to the experiences and wisdom of practitioners have been identified by numerous scholars. This “research-practice gap” has the potential to hinder progress in both research and practice. In the area of practice, approaches shown to be ineffective may continue to be used, and demonstrated effective approaches may fail to be implemented. In the area of research, failure to consider practical implications of studies can lead to research that is out of line with the actual needs of clients and service providers. For these reasons, the domestic violence research-practice gap represents a significant challenge for both researchers and practitioners to address.

CED faculty member Christine Murray and her colleagues have conducted a series of studies to understand and address various facets of the gap between research and practice in domestic violence prevention and intervention. The first study involved a statewide survey of domestic violence service providers to examine their needs and perceptions related to research (Murray & Welch, 2010). The second study involved the development of a scale to measure domestic violence researchers’ perceptions of the links between research and practice (Murray & Smith, 2009). The third study involved a Delphi study of representatives from state domestic violence coalitions to identify possible solutions to bridging the gap between research and practice (Murray, Smith, & Avent, 2010).

What are some of the major lessons learned through these studies?

1. Three barriers to service providers’ access to research findings are costs, time required to read and interpret research articles, and highly specialized technical language that is difficult to comprehend without extensive training in research methods

2. To maximize the accessibility of research-based information for service providers, research summaries should be presented in brief, highly readable formats, and the practical implications should be emphasized.

3. Domestic violence researchers and practitioners generally are interested in working together. However, practitioners and researchers may have had negative experiences with members of the "other" group, and so greater efforts are needed to bring them together to foster dialogue.

4. Research-based guidelines for practice with clients impacted by domestic violence should not be rigidly prescriptive. Research findings cannot provide all of the answers, and information should be presented in a way that leaves room for the informed clinical judgment of practitioners.

5. Researchers may need to learn more about practical demands faced by service providers. Likewise, service providers may benefit from additional training in understanding and applying research.


Murray, C. E., & Smith, P. H. (2009). Perceptions of research and practice among domestic violence researchers. Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research, 1, 4-21.

Murray, C. E., Smith, P. H., & Avent, J. (2010). Solutions to the research-practice gap in domestic violence: A modified Delphi study with domestic violence coalition leaders. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma, 19, 424-449.

Murray, C. E., & Welch, M. (2010). Preliminary construction of a service provider-informed domestic violence research agenda. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. First published on-line on February 2, 2010 as doi:10.1177/0886260509354883.

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