Have we learned anything from social science research?

Knowledge, Structure, and Use

Implications for Synthesis and Interpretation

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edited by Spencer A. Ward and Linda J. Reed

"An excellent collection of viewpoints—comprehensive, analytic, and incisive. Belongs on the desks of all educational researchers and other scholars interested in synthesizing knowledge."
Herbert T. Walberg, University of Illinois at Chicago

Have we learned anything from social science research? Most researchers would say we have. However, studies of many education and social services settings show little impact of research findings. The limited impact of social science is, perhaps, most obvious when we contrast the success of physical science and the resulting potential for global nuclear disaster with the limits of our understanding of how to prevent war or crime in our own neighborhoods. From the practitionersí perspective, most social science research is seen as irrelevant because it does not relate to what they do, or, at best, it provides contradictory guidance on what should be done.

Many reasons can be given for the minimal impact of social science research and for the decreasing funding of such research. The editors of this volume believe that a major and frequently ignored cause is that the research community has failed to aggressively synthesize the research results and interpret from those results implications for practice and for further research. The problem, as they see it, is not a lack of doing synthesis-review, synthesis, and state-of-the-art papers appear in many journals and books. The problem is how it is done.

In this volume the editors, who have done synthesis and studied the synthesis process, have assembled widely recognized researchers from many of the social sciences to examine the nature of knowledge and the relationship of research in psychology, sociology library science, education, information science, epistemology, policy research, administration, and computer science to the process of knowledge synthesis.

This book has four major audiences: synthesizers or literature reviewers, search planners, policy makers, and those who study the processes of knowledge spread, dissemination, or utilization. The authors address a wide range of questions from practical questions of how to do synthesis and how to format the resulting document to such fundamental questions as what can we know, what is the impact of knowledge, and how does synthesis relate to the entire system of organizing knowledge in libraries and electronic data bases.



Introduction – Spencer Ward and Linda Reed
Knowledge Structure and Knowledge Synthesis – Spencer Ward

Part I: Knowledge Structure and Use
1. Epistemological Problems in Organizing Social Science Knowledge for Application – Kenneth Strike and George Posner
2. Implications of Psychological Research for Knowledge Synthesis: Understanding and Remembering Verbal Information – Rand Spiro
3. The Impact of Knowledge on Behavior: Lessons from the Attitude-Behavior Controversy – Russel Weigel
4. Information as a User Construct The Relevance of Perceived Information Needs to Synthesis and Interpretation – Brenda Dervin
5. Social Processes and Knowledge Synthesis – Burkart Holzner
6. Computational Strategies for Analyzing the Organization and Use of Information – Donald Walker
7. Knowledge Synthesis and Problem Solving – Robert Rich
8. The Relationship of Information Science to Knowledge Synthesis – David Batty

Part II: Processes of Synthesis and Interpretation
9. Knowledge Synthesis – William Gephart
10. Types of Synthesis and Their Criteria – Kenneth Strike and George Posner
11. The Creative Process and the Synthesis and Dissemination of Knowledge – Morris Stein
12. Synthesizing Empirical Research: Meta-analysis – Gene Glass
13. Quick Turnaround Synthesis/Interpretation for Practitioners – Jane Roberts
14. Knowledge Synthesis and Computer-Based Communication Systems – Kathleen Vian and Robert Johansen
15. The Relationship of Planning and Knowledge Synthesis – Eral D. Nadler and William Bozeman
16. Documentation of a Consensus Building Approach to Knowledge Synthesis – Spencer Ward
17. Design of a Synthesis Document for Educa-tional Practitioners – Joanne Landesman and Linda Reed
18. Synthesis Processes in Curriculum Development – Paul Hurd

Epilogue – Spencer Ward and Linda Reed


About the Author(s)

Spencer A. Ward is a Senior Research Associate at the National Institute of Education in Washington, D.C.

Linda J. Reed works for NBI, Inc., in Boulder, Colorado.

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