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  MAKING SENSE OF RESEARCH


   

Stretching research findings

This is the opposite of ignoring important research. Researchers can produce cautiously optimistic or positive results that are then stretched or 'talked up' to give them a significance that is not warranted by the evidence. This can happen for a variety of reasons, not all intentional. Research commissioners may be looking for definitive or findings that lean towards a particular set of outcomes and place pressure on researchers to highlight these rather than other more important results. If the researcher has an insider stance there may be an inevitable bias in the analysis or presentation of findings. Commercial research organisations may be conscious of their interest in obtaining future contracts and this may inform reporting. It can also happen through indifference or ignorance of professional standards. A common occurrence is probably through results obtained from small sample sizes being generalised to larger sample size than the evidence supports. For example interviewing three sets of carers, workers and users involved in an older persons’ respite scheme for carers might identify the detail of those three individual cases but using this sample to report on what works or does not work about the scheme would be bad practice.

This is not to say that small samples are necessarily unreliable but that care has to be taken in drawing wider conclusions, particularly in the social care arena where individuals and their circumstances are so varied.

 

     
       
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