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Comparing Programs and Practices

On CrimeSolutions.gov, we review and rate both Programs and Practices. Below is a table that demonstrates how Programs and Practices are different.

  Programs Practices
Description A specific set of activities carried out according to guidelines to achieve a defined purpose. A general category of programs, strategies or procedures that share similar characteristics with regard to the issues they address and how they address them.
Question Answered How effective is this program according to the most rigorous evaluation(s) available? How effective is this general practice on average across many evaluations?
Example Did the ABC Mentoring Program in Anytown, USA achieve its goals? Does mentoring usually achieve its goals?
Evidence Ratings Single evidence rating per program Single evidence rating for each outcome affected by the practice
Evidence Base Up to 3 rigorous evaluations of a specific program Meta-analyses that assess the average effectiveness of the practice on various outcomes across a large number of studies
Research Methods Experimental or quasi-experimental designs Meta-analyses of experimental or quasi-experimental designs

A Program is a specific set of activities carried out according to guidelines to achieve a defined purpose. To determine whether individual programs are effective, we rely on studies using randomized experimental evaluation designs and quasi-experimental evaluation designs. Program profiles on CrimeSolutions.gov tell us whether a specific program was found to achieve its goals when it was carefully evaluated. The results apply to the exact set of activities and procedures used for that one program as it was implemented at the time of evaluation. Thus, the program profile tells us that a program is likely to produce the observed result if it is implemented in exactly the same way. A program profile can answer: Did the ABC Mentoring Program in Anytown, USA, achieve its goals?

A Practice is a general category of programs, strategies or procedures that share similar characteristics with regard to the issues they address and how they address them. We rely on meta-analyses instead of evaluations of individual programs.

Practice profiles tell us about the average results from multiple evaluations of similar programs, strategies or procedures. The programs, strategies or procedures within a practice are similar because they share certain defining characteristics that are described for each practice profile on CrimeSolutions.gov. Thus, practice profiles tell us the average result across multiple evaluations. A practice profile can answer: Does mentoring usually achieve its goals?

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