How We Review
and Rate a Program From Start to Finish
To be included on
CrimeSolutions.gov, programs undergo an eight-step review and evidence-rating
process. On this page you'll find details of each step in this process. You also will find information on how and when we determine to re-review a program.
Programs are identified
for potential inclusion on CrimeSolutions.gov through:
searches of relevant databases, journals and publications, including:
- Social science
databases using keywords identified in the areas of criminal justice, juvenile
justice and victims of crime;
- Journals (including
peer-reviewed journals) and other relevant resources; and
- Other web-based
databases of effective programs, and meta-analyses of evaluated programs.
from the field. See how to nominate a
program here: Nominate a Program for CrimeSolutions.gov.
After programs are
identified, research staff review program materials to determine whether the
goals of the program fall within the scope of CrimeSolutions.gov. To fall
within the scope, the program must:
to prevent or reduce crime, delinquency or related problem behaviors (such as
aggression, gang involvement, or school attachment);
to prevent, intervene, or respond to victimization;
to improve justice systems or processes; and/or
an offender population or an at-risk population (that is, individuals who have
the potential to become involved in the justice system).
Prevention programs not
explicitly aimed at reducing or preventing a problem behavior must apply to a
population at risk for developing problem behaviors.
If the program's scope
meets CrimeSolutions.gov criteria, research staff then expand the search for evaluations,
research and program materials to identify all relevant information needed for
Lead Researcher and Study Reviewer consideration. Nonexperimental, qualitative,
ethnographic and case-study research is collected if it adds contextual
information to the program description, but is not used to determine the program's
Once the literature
search is complete, research staff review the newly identified studies to
determine whether they meet the criteria for evidence. To be considered for
expert review, the program's evaluation evidence must meet the following
program must be evaluated with at least one randomized field experiment or
quasi-experimental research design (with a comparison condition).
outcomes assessed must relate to crime, delinquency, or victimization
prevention, intervention or response.
evaluation must be published in a peer-reviewed publication or documented in a
comprehensive evaluation report.
date of publication must be 1980 or later.
View the list of screened-out programs (xlsx).
of Evidence Base
A Lead Researcher with subject-matter and research method expertise selects up to three studies representing the most rigorous study designs and methods from all available evaluations of the program.
The Lead Researcher follows review guidelines to ensure that appropriate statistical comparisons between treatment and control groups were conducted in the studies, that they are not studies of comparative effectiveness,
and that the studies’ authors report the outcomes in a manner that allows for the Study Reviewers to assess the quality of the results (for example, providing data to calculate an effect size, if needed).
Additionally, the Lead Researcher ensures that outcomes for the full treatment sample are reported in the studies (studies that provide outcomes only for subgroups are not eligible for review).
The selected studies comprise the program's evidence base and will be scored by Study Reviewers, ultimately to be used as the basis for the program's evidence rating.
Additional studies identified through the literature search, but not included in the evidence base, may serve as supporting documentation. The criteria used to determine the three most rigorous studies include:
- Strength of research design
- Breadth of documentation
- Type of analytic procedures used
- Sample size
- Independence of evaluator
- Year of publication.
If a CrimeSolutions.gov Study Reviewer believes there is a compelling reason to review more than three studies, he or she may contact the Lead Researcher to request additional studies for review. The Lead Researcher will then make the final determination. In addition, multiple articles and publications that report on various aspects of a single study are generally treated as one study for purposes of the review; however, two studies that use the same data set but include different follow-up periods or analyses may be considered separately on a case-by-case basis.
Once the Lead
Researcher selects the studies that will comprise the program's evidence base,
trained and certified Study Reviewers begin the program evidence review, using
the Scoring Instrument to assess the quality, strength and extent to which the
evidence indicates that the program achieves its goals. Each study within the
evidence base is assessed by at least two Study Reviewers. The Scoring Instrument (PDF) indicates the overall rating for each study that is reviewed.
The Scoring Instrument
consists of two parts:
Part 1 of the Scoring
Instrument: Conceptual Framework is assessed only once for each program,
regardless of the number of studies in the evidence base. The Study Reviewers
make this assessment based on information from all of the studies and program
materials they have received. These additional program materials may include
nonexperimental, qualitative, ethnographic and case-study research as well as
|Program's Conceptual Framework
||Assesses the degree to which the program is grounded in the research literature.
- Prior research
- Theoretical base
- Program description
Part 2 of the Scoring
Instrument: Quality, Outcomes and Fidelity is completed for each evaluation study
that is included as part of the evidence base (up to three studies). It
includes the research design quality, outcome evidence and program fidelity.
|Study Quality, Outcomes, and Fidelity
||Assesses the quality of the research design. The Study Reviewers are also required to note specific information, such as threats to validity.
- Type of research design
- Sample size
- Statistical adjustment (if applicable)
- Internal validity
- Follow-up period
- Displacement/diffusion (if applicable)
||Assesses the quality of the results. (Note: Outcomes are considered and rated separately within this dimension because programs may target multiple outcomes. In addition, the assessment focuses on the programs' primary, intended outcomes.)
- Substantive program effects
- Behavior change
||Assesses the degree to which the program is delivered as designed and intended.
Study Reviewers assign
numerical values to each element in the scoring instrument. The elements
include a definition and other guidance that Reviewers consider when rating the
elements. In the Program Review information, the Reviewers also make note of
any other information that should be highlighted as being of particular
importance. See the Scoring Instrument for guidance on each element.
The Study Reviewer is
responsible for making a reasonable determination (i.e., supported or justified
by fact or circumstance) as to the strength of the conceptual framework,
research design, outcome evidence and program fidelity on the basis of provided
documentation and his or her specialized knowledge with regard to program
As a final step on the
scoring instrument, Study Reviewers provide an assessment as to their overall
confidence in the study design. If both Study Reviewers agree, and the Lead
Researcher concurs, that there is a fundamental flaw in the study design (not
captured in the Design Quality dimension), this raises serious concerns about
the study's results, the study is removed from the evidence base, and it is not
factored into the evidence rating. This final determination serves as an
additional safeguard to ensure that only the most rigorous studies comprise the
evidence base. The study citation will be listed among the program's additional
The score for each of
the four dimensions (Conceptual Framework, Design Quality, Outcome Evidence,
and Program Fidelity) is calculated separately and used to assess each study. On
the basis of scores, the study is assigned one of the following classifications:
1 Studies are very rigorous and well-designed and find significant, positive
effects on justice-related outcomes.
2 Studies are well-designed but slightly less rigorous, or there may be
limitations in their design. They find significant, positive effects on
3 Studies are very rigorous and well-designed and find significant, harmful
effects on justice-related outcomes.
4 Studies are very rigorous and well-designed and find no significant effects on
5 Studies do not provide enough information or have significant limitations in their
study design such that it is not possible to establish a causal relationship to
the justice-related outcomes.
Reviewers: In the event that there is a classification discrepancy between the Study
Reviewers, the Lead Researcher will work to achieve a consensus classification.
If necessary, the Lead Researcher will also review the study and make a final
determination on the classification.
To reach an evidence rating for each program, the study-level information is aggregated.
All evidence ratings, which are based on 1–3 studies, are classified as follows:
periodically updates a static list of programs that have been reviewed by Study
Reviewers but not assigned an evidence rating due to lack of evidence. A
program is placed on the Inconclusive Evidence List if the reviewed study (or
studies) received only Class 5 study ratings, indicating that there were
significant limitations in the study design such that it was not possible to
establish a causal relationship to the program's justice-related outcomes (as
outlined in the above Program Evidence Rating chart). See Programs Identified But Not Rated.
Read more about CrimeSolutions.gov Researchers and Reviewers.
a Program and Updating a Rating
We re-review programs for the following reasons:
- New evaluation studies, or studies not previously identified, are found that meet the CrimeSolutions.gov criteria. This may include studies that extend the follow-up period of previously reviewed studies.
- New supplemental materials are submitted that better explain the conceptual framework and fidelity dimensions of the program, which may affect a program's evidence rating.
- As part of a periodic and continuous quality control assessment to ensure information, links, and research in program profiles are current, accurate, and consistent with any updates to policies and procedures for the program review.
A re-review may or may not be sufficient to warrant a new evidence rating. If a Lead Researcher determines that there is sufficient evidence in the new materials to warrant another review, then the new information is sent to the Study Reviewers for assessment. Even if the program's evidence rating does not change, new evidence, information, and materials may be included or referenced on the program's profile page.
We also may re-review select programs when changes or clarifications are made to the review instrument, criteria for inclusion of a study, and the guidance given to our reviewers.
For more information: Inquiring About or Appealing an Evidence Rating