Evidenced Based and Data Based Decisions

We all know that evidence-based practice is very important.  No-one would like to use practice that has no evidence for it.  However, it is difficult sometimes to know what to look for when someone says they are using evidence-based practice.

Research evidence can be used by professionals in two main ways.  Practice can be informed by research, which we call Research-Informed Practice or practice can be directly informed by ongoing measures, which we will call Data-Based Decision Making.

Best practice is to have both Research-Informed Practice and Data-Based Decision Making, but that is not always possible in every situation.

Research-Informed Practice

Making treatment decisions (e.g., what treatment should we use?) based on research that has shown the treatment works for this type of individual, this behavior, this problem or this situation (e.g., a classroom setting or the home).


  • Using Cognitive Behavior Therapy to reduce anxiety because CBT has been shown to decrease anxiety (problem) in adults (type of person).
  • Using the Good Behavior Game to reduce behavior problems (problem) in a typical classroom (type of person and situation).

What should I expect?

The therapist can tell you about how (according to the research) the treatment fits the person, behavior, problem or situation.

Data-Based Decision Making

Making treatment decisions (e.g., is this treatment working?) for a person based on ongoing measures of that person’s behavior.


  • Measuring my weight to see whether my new diet is reducing my weight.
  • Measuring how many new words my child produces to see whether her verbal behavior treatment is working.

What should I expect?

Treatment will change if the person does not react as the therapist expected to the treatment.
The therapist can tell you about how he/she is measuring behavior and why they are using that measure.