What is the difference between academic research and evaluation?

Academic research is conducted to advance knowledge in a particular area, while evaluation is conducted to assess the effectiveness of a program or intervention. Evaluation involves collecting data and making judgments about the value of something, while research is more focused on generating new knowledge.

To understand the concept of Evaluation, it is essential to know its difference from Research, as these two concepts are confused with each other. One of the most often-asked questions – is research and evaluation the same or different? Unfortunately, the answer is not apparent here. There has been alternative theorization among experts in establishing the distinction between research and evaluation.

Academic research is a systematic inquiry into a particular topic or question that aims to advance knowledge and understanding in a particular field. Academic research involves gathering and analyzing data, interpreting results, and making conclusions based on evidence. The goal of academic research is to generate new knowledge and contribute to existing knowledge in a field.Evaluation, on the other hand, is a process of assessing the value or effectiveness of a program, intervention, policy, or product. Evaluation involves gathering and analyzing data to determine whether a particular intervention or program has achieved its goals and objectives. The goal of evaluation is to provide feedback to stakeholders about the effectiveness of a particular intervention or program and to inform decision-making about whether to continue, modify, or discontinue the intervention.

What is the difference between academic research and evaluation?
There is a big difference between academic research and evaluation.

There are various schools of thought or typologies that exist that view research and evaluation from different lenses. The four different typologies are as follows:

Research and evaluation are dichotomous #

Academic research and evaluation are related but distinct processes that serve different purposes.

While academic research and evaluation both involve gathering and analyzing data, they differ in their goals, focus, and methods. Academic research is primarily concerned with advancing knowledge in a particular field, while evaluation is focused on assessing the effectiveness of a particular intervention or program. Academic research typically involves more extensive data collection and analysis, while evaluation is often focused on a specific intervention or program and uses more targeted data collection methods. Additionally, academic research is typically conducted by researchers who are independent of the intervention or program being studied, while evaluation is often conducted by individuals who are closely involved with the intervention or program.Regenerate response

This school considers research and evaluation as two completely separate streams of producing knowledge. Evaluation is viewed as more interested in specific, applied knowledge, and more controlled by those funding or commissioning the evaluation. Research, on the other hand, is considered as interested in producing generalizable knowledge which are theoretical and controlled by the researchers.

Purpose is testing theory and producing generalizable findings.Purpose is to determine the effectiveness of a specific program or model.
Questions originate with scholars in a discipline.Questions originate with key stakeholders and primary intended users of evaluation findings.
Quality and importance judged by peer review in a discipline.Quality and importance judged by those who will use the findings to take action and make decisions
Ultimate test of value is contribution to knowledge.Ultimate test of value is usefulness to improve effectiveness.
Research vs Evaluation
Research or Monitoring and Evaluation

Evaluation and research as mutually independent #

A quite different way of thinking about research and evaluation sees them as two independent variables that are not mutually exclusive.

Evaluation and research as mutually independent

Evaluation as a sub-section of research #

This school of thought is premised on the notion that – Doing research does not necessarily require doing evaluation.  However, doing evaluation always requires doing research.

Research as a sub-section of Evaluation #

This school of thought on the distinction between research and evaluation is that research is only a sub-section of evaluation. The school holds the view that the research part of evaluation involves only collecting and analyzing empirical data. It is also called as action-research.

Which school “research or evaluation” should we use? #

Each of these framings can be useful for particular purposes.

But remember that there isn’t a single style of framing. The best way to choose your frame is by identifying the result you want to achieve and who you are presenting to.

The choice between research and evaluation depends on the purpose and goals of your inquiry. If your goal is to advance knowledge and understanding in a particular field, then academic research may be more appropriate. On the other hand, if your goal is to assess the effectiveness of a particular intervention or program, then the evaluation may be more appropriate.

When deciding between research and evaluation, it is important to consider the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of your inquiry?
  2. What are your goals and objectives?
  3. What resources do you have available for data collection and analysis?
  4. Who are your stakeholders, and what are their needs and interests?
  5. What are the ethical considerations involved in your inquiry?

Once you have answered these questions, you can determine whether research or evaluation is the best approach for your inquiry. It is also important to note that research and evaluation can be complementary approaches, and may be used together to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a particular issue or intervention.

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