The best research evidence base

How do you get the best evidence base?

Randomised control trials (RCTs) are considered by many to be the most robust way of determining whether an intervention is effective. As the name implies, RCTs are conducted by randomly assigning participants to a ‘treatment’ and a ‘control’ or comparison group. Thus, one group receives the treatment under investigation and the other receives no additional support other than what they would normally be given. This random assignment is done to ensure that any potential biases are evenly distributed across both groups.

Participants from both groups are then asked to complete measures that are given to them prior to the intervention and then once again afterwards. Change is then measured for both groups. If the treatment group demonstrates a measurable improvement and this is substantially greater than the comparison group, it is assumed that the treatment has had a significant effect.

Other, methods of establishing an evidence base include, well-designed cross-sectional studies (where the treatment and control group are only measured at one point in time – not via pre- and post-treatment measures) and the use of norm-referenced instruments, which compare pre and post intervention change to ‘normed’ scores based upon population averages. Qualitative methods are useful for understanding why or how a programme works.

Practitioners can visit the commissioning toolkitto be able to see a listing of parenting programmes and their evidence base.

Other examples of sourcing evidence can be viewed on the following websites: