National Council on Disability Document Archive

Lit review on knowledge -- DISSEMIN.TXT

Posted by: Jamal Mazrui
Date Mailed: Thursday, August 7th 1997 08:12 PM

Below is a description of the National Center for the Dissemination
of Disability Research (, followed by it's 
literature review on knowledge transfer and utilization.

Jamal Mazrui
National Council on Disability

What is NCDDR?

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) was awarded
a four-year pilot project by the National Institute on Disability
and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to establish and operate the
National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research
(NCDDR).  NIDRR funds approximately 300 projects annually,
including Research and Demonstration Projects, Rehabilitation
Research and Training Centers, Rehabilitation Engineering Research
Centers, Field-Initiated Research Grants, and 11 other programs
that are the Center's primary clients. The target audiences of the
projects, including persons with disabilities and their families,
advocacy organizations, policymakers, direct service providers, as
well as federal government personnel and others, will be secondary

The NCDDR's purpose is to enhance the dissemination efforts of
NIDRR-funded research projects and to increase the accessibility of
research outcomes for the benefit of their consumers, particularly
those from minority backgrounds. This will be accomplished through
two long-range goals:

* to ensure the widespread dissemination and utilization of
research outcomes resulting from NIDRR research projects, and
* to increase the capacity of researchers to identify and use
development and dissemination strategies that meet the needs of
their target audience(s).

The NCDDR will achieve these goals through use of effective change
strategies and by identifying and implementing a wide range of
dissemination techniques, modes, and formats, including electronic
data, large print, braille, audio and video, other languages, and
others that are identified by users.

A strong Internet presence including electronic mail and World Wide
Web access offers state of the art communication capabilities.
NCDDR facilitates linkages among researchers, consumers, and
service providers. A toll-free number (1-800-266-1832) provides
immediate access for purposes of seeking technical assistance at no
cost to the requester.

A Multicultural Research and Dissemination Task Force meets to
assist in identifying information from NIDRR research activities
that reflect multicultural issues, barriers to the use of
identified research, and recommendations of strategies for
overcoming the barriers to information utilization among minority
populations. The Task Force is made up of researchers and people
with disabilities from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

An expert panel will review NIDRR-funded project results that are
nominated for further dissemination. The NCDDR will work with
selected projects to develop plans to disseminate results to new
audiences or in new ways. NCDDR staff and consultants will provide
training and technical assistance through national meetings and
on-site, if appropriate, to researchers and others to improve
understanding of dissemination and utilization strategies.

NCDDR conducts surveys of both primary and secondary research-users
to identify needs and preferred mode and format of information
access, and convenes focus groups to examine various topics.
Information generated by the NCDDR will be available to a wide
range of audiences including researchers and service providers as
well as people with disabilities, their families and the general
public. Specific resources identified include literature reviews,
information guides, a self-assessment dissemination and utilization
(D & U) inventory instrument, and a quarterly newsletter, The
Research Exchange.

National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research 

A Review of the Literature on 
Dissemination and Knowledge Utilization

July 1996

A Review of the Literature on Dissemination and Knowledge 
Utilization is published by the National Center for the 
Dissemination of Disability Research (NCDDR) which is operated by 
the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL).  Neither 
SEDL nor the NCDDR discriminate on the basis of age, sex, color, 
creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, marital or 
veteran status, or the presence of a disability.  Material in 
these pages may be copied with credit to NCDDR.  The contents of 
this document were developed under a grant (#H133D50016) from the 
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research 
(NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education.  The NCDDR is funded 100% 
by NIDRR at $500,000 per project year.  These contents do not 
necessarily represent the policy of SEDL, NIDRR, or the 
Department of Education; do not assume endorsement by the Federal 

This document is available in alternate formats upon request

Copyright 1996 by Southwest Educational Development Laboratory
A Review of the Literature on
Dissemination and Knowledge Utilization

Purpose and Overview

Research is not used as a can opener is used. 

					- Huberman, 1987, p. 589

	This survey of the literature is designed to provide a 
knowledge base for strengthening the ways in which research 
results can be accessed and used by those who need them.  The 
ultimate purpose of disability research is to be of use-leading 
either to changes in current practice or to confirmation of it.  
However, in spite of the sophistication and magnitude of 
disability research, and in spite of almost thirty years of 
federally sponsored dissemination efforts, problems remain.

	Paul Leung, reviewing the testimony provided in a series of 
forums sponsored in 1991 by the National Institute on Disability 
and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), reports that "information 
dissemination is an issue of concern for consumers, family 
members, and professionals."  He quotes Graves (1991), who "notes 
that disability and rehabilitation research often 'is viewed not 
only by practicing counselors as impractical, but often by people 
with disabilities as irrelevant'" (Leung, 1992, p. 287).  
Testimony from these forums "suggests the continuing need to move 
research and information from those who generate it to the user 
and the service provider in a form that has direct and immediate 
application" (p. 295).

	Continuing problems with dissemination can be linked to a 
number of factors.  Louis (1992) has listed four problematic 
characteristics of the U.S. educational system of dissemination 
that also may be applied to the rehabilitation field:
(a) The U.S. system is deeply indebted to the extension model 
developed in the agricultural tradition; (b) it has traditionally 
focused on the dissemination side of the equation, rather than on 
the knowledge use side; (c) it has grown up as a set of 
uncoordinated-and even competitive-activities; (d) the resulting 
approach is largely top down, research-to-practice focused, 
rather than bottom up, problem-solving focused. (p. 290)

	A number of researchers have noted that, while the extension 
model has worked successfully in the field of agriculture, it has 
not been particularly effective in other areas.  The reasons for 
this circumstance include issues of funding and coordination; 
also important are differences in the user orientation of 
agricultural and other research and in the kinds of information 
being disseminated.  Rogers (1988) points out that agricultural 
researchers have always geared their work toward farmers' use of 
their results.  He also notes that the agricultural extension 
system has been less successful when the subject matter to be 
disseminated strays from agricultural production technology.

	The agricultural extension model reflects a rational, linear 
conception of the process of knowledge utilization; the focus of 
this model is on getting the word out, with the assumption that 
good ideas will be used by those who hear about them.  As Louis 
(1992) explains, a key assumption of this approach to 
dissemination "is that knowledge is a 'thing' that simply needs 
to find a good home" (p. 288).  However, the understandings about 
knowledge use emerging from the recent literature reveal that the 
process is complex, transactional, and heavily dependent on the 
potential user's pre-existing knowledge, beliefs, and 
	The focus on the user of research has come to the forefront 
during a period when the target audiences for disability research 
have broadened to include stronger attention to direct service 
providers and to persons with disabilities and their families.  
Although little empirical research has been conducted to assess 
the effectiveness of specific dissemination approaches with 
diverse user audiences, it is clear that consideration needs to 
be given to demographic and psychographic differences.

	Many improvements have been made in the dissemination of 
disability research (Blasiotti, 1992).  NIDRR and other branches 
of the federal government are working to establish common 
perspectives as well as coordinated approaches to dissemination, 
and to encourage the incorporation of dissemination into all 
stages of the research, development, and utilization process.  
This literature review, along with a series of guides to 
effective practice that will be developed from it, is intended to 
support such changes.

Definitions and Models

After a comprehensive and wide-ranging search of the literature, 
the authors were unable to locate a comprehensive, commonly 
accepted definition of dissemination. 

					- Friedman & Farag, 1991, p. 269

	The literature is filled with differing definitions and uses 
of dissemination, knowledge utilization, diffusion, and 
technology transfer, among other related terms.  These terms are 
sometimes used interchangeably, sometimes carefully distinguished 
from one another.  The different uses and definitions reflect 
varying assumptions and interests, ranging from a limited focus 
on "getting the word out" to an all-encompassing focus on
seeing new knowledge or products from creation all the way 
through implementation by intended users.

	Most recent authors are careful to include a focus on the 
use of research results.  For example, Newman and Vash (1994) 
note, "Experience shows that possession of information does not 
mean it will be used" (p. 381).  Similarly, Sechrest, Backer, and 
Rogers (1994) argue that "we need to distinguish between 
'dissemination' and 'effective dissemination,' because the former 
term is often used to indicate merely the successful distribution 
of information" (p. 187).  Even where use is included as a 
dimension of dissemination, however, the question of what is 
meant by use or utilization is not a settled one.  Machlup (1993) 
articulates the question as follows:

Does use of information-the process of transmission and 
reception, for example, of a letter-mean (1) receiving it and 
thus getting a chance to read it; (2) receiving and actually 
reading it; (3) receiving, reading, and understanding it; (4) 
receiving, reading, understanding, and appreciating it; (5) 
receiving, reading, understanding, appreciating, and making it 
the basis of a decision; or (6) receiving, reading, 
understanding, and appreciating it, plus letting it help you in 
making a decision and taking an action (or refusing to act) in 
line with the decision reached with the help of the knowledge 
obtained? (pp. 449-450)

	Many researchers have begun to distinguish between 
conceptual use of knowledge, which Huberman (1992) describes as 
"changes in levels of knowledge, understanding, or attitude," and 
instrumental use, or "changes in behavior and practice" (p. 6).  
Some also include a third category of strategic use, which 
relates to the manipulation of knowledge to attain specific power 
or profit goals, such as political gain; Huberman (1987) 
characterizes this use as being in "the 'research-as-ammunition' 
tradition" (p. 590).

	The question of use moves dissemination to a focus on 
implementation.  In an early effort to define dissemination, the 
federally constituted Dissemination Analysis Group (cited in 
Klein & Gwaltney, 1991, pp. 246-247) in 1977 identified four 
functions or types of dissemination: 

 	spread, which is defined as "the one-way diffusion or 
distribution of information," 
 	choice, a process that "actively helps users seek and acquire 
alternative sources of information and learn about their 
 	exchange, which "involves interactions between people and the 
multidirectional flow of information," and
 	implementation, which "includes technical assistance, 
training, or interpersonal activities designed to increase the 
use of knowledge or R&D or to change attitudes or behavior of 
organizations or individuals." 

	Spread is described as a proactive process, in which 
disseminators take the initiative in distributing useful 
knowledge or products.  Choice is described as reactive, 
providing information and materials as requested by potential 
users, and exchange and implementation are described as 
interactive processes (Klein & Gwaltney, 1991).

	Definitions of dissemination also reflect differing 
assumptions and beliefs about the ways in which knowledge is 
used, indeed about the very nature of knowledge itself.  The 
focus varies from perceiving dissemination and utilization as 
linear, mechanical processes of "transfer," in which knowledge is 
packaged and moved from one "place" to another, much as an 
appliance might be packaged and shipped, to characterizing the 
process as highly complex, nonlinear, interactive, and critically 
dependent on the beliefs, values, circumstances, and needs of 
intended users.  Key differences are reflected in a criticism by 
Louis (1992) of the Dissemination Analysis Group's four-level 
definition; she characterizes the group's approach to 
dissemination as "technocratic":

A key assumption of this approach is that knowledge is a "thing" 
that simply needs to find a good home . . . Nowhere is this more 
apparent than in the worthy effort to define dissemination as 
consisting of four activities: spread, exchange, choice, and 
implementation. This definition . . . improves on the previous 
assumption that the purpose of dissemination was primarily to 
cast knowledge out into the world of practice, under the theory 
that a good idea would ultimately be used. The newer approach 
incorporates ideas about communication as a two-way process and 
extends the job of dissemination to include providing support for 
actual changes.  It nevertheless embodies the belief that 
knowledge comes in definable, useable units that can be arrayed 
in front of practitioners who will then find among them something 
to "solve their problem(s)."  Federal policies in the United 
States, and the dissemination system that it supports, reflect 
this assumption. (p. 288)

	A variety of authors have proposed theories, or models, of 
the way in which knowledge utilization works.  Paisley (1993, p. 
227), for example, contrasts two models that he labels as the 
diffusion model, which emphasizes the disseminator of 
information, and the information-seeking model, which emphasizes 
the roles of users in seeking solutions.  Wingens (1990) notes 
that one of the first major utilization studies in the field of 
sociology (Caplan, Morrison, & Stambaugh, 1975) divided existing 
theories into three major categories: knowledge-specific 
theories, policymaker constraint theories, and two-communities 
theories.  According to Wingens and others, the latter theory, 
which focuses on the gaps in culture, need, and belief between 
the two "communities" of researchers and users, remains "the most 
prevalent theory to be found in utilization research" (p. 28).

	No single theory or model has gained ascendancy.  In fact, 
Wingens (1990) asserts

The state of the art of theory-building in utilization research 
has remained on a low level and is, at best, mediocre.  There is 
no elaborate utilization theory, let alone one that has proved 
its explanatory power by empirical testing. (p. 28)

For those concerned with the practical issues of dissemination, 
the most important distinctions among the various models have to 
do with their perspectives about the ways and extent to which 
potential users play active roles in the acquisition and use of 
new knowledge.

	For the purposes of this paper, the terms dissemination and 
knowledge utilization are used interchangeably.  Both are assumed 
to mean not only the distribution of products or information, but 
also the incorporation of approaches designed to promote 
conceptual or instrumental use.

The Status of the Literature on Knowledge Utilization

	The literature on dissemination and knowledge utilization 
spans a number of disciplines, including rehabilitation, 
education, sociology, psychology, and marketing.  According to 
one author (Backer, 1991), this literature now includes an 
estimated 10,000 citations.  In tracing the history of the study 
of dissemination or diffusion theory, Valente and Rogers (1995) 
note that "the diffusion of innovations paradigm began more than 
fifty years ago when Ryan and Gross (1943) published the results 
of their hybrid seed corn study" (p. 242).  Backer (1991) 
describes the current focus on dissemination
as a "third wave" of activities related to the understanding and 
promotion of knowledge utilization.  The first wave, he notes, 
spanned the years from 1920 through 1960.  The second wave took 
place during the period from 1960 through 1980, when a number of 
large-scale, federally sponsored dissemination and implementation 
studies were conducted.

	Most of the current literature relies substantially on the 
research conducted during Backer's "second wave" of dissemination 
study, and consists primarily of new analysis and refinements of 
understandings from the work of the 1960s, 1970s, and early 
1980s.  For example, key surveys by authors such as Backer, 
Edwards, Huberman, and Rogers, all draw heavily from these early 
studies.  Huberman (1987), along with a number of other experts, 
questions the emergence of any major new data related to 
knowledge utilization theory:

Do the more recent reviews tell us anything fundamentally new?  
The claim made here is that they do not; they are essentially 
redundant . . . This more recent work yields useful refinements 
and helps to pin down combinations of variables . . . But the 
overarching findings, together with the key explanatory variables 
. . . seem unchanged. 
(p. 587)

	There are at least some major changes to consider.  As 
Paisley (1993) notes, "Many of the problems that challenge 
knowledge utilization have changed little since the 1960s and 
1970s.  However, the communications environment of knowledge 
utilization has changed dramatically" (p. 222).  The 
proliferation of electronic communications, in particular the 
widespread use of personal computers, has given rise to a number 
of new questions and issues about equity, access, and 
	In addition, perspectives about the process of knowledge 
utilization have shifted in important ways.  Edwards (1991) 
points out, "Today the complexities and the dynamic,
transactional aspects of knowledge utilization have become more 
widely recognized" (p. 36).  Hutchinson and Huberman (1993) 
describe the changes since Havelock's (1969) 
research-development-dissemination-evaluation model "cast the 
flow of knowledge as a one-way process" (p.2):

The shift focuses on the ways that knowledge is mediated in 
particular settings and on the "schemata" and representations 
that "users" bring to bear on information and expertise presented 
to them.  According to this approach, the user acts upon 
information by relating it to existing knowledge, imposing 
meaning and organization on experience and, in many cases, 
monitoring understanding throughout the process.  This casts the 
user as an active problem-solver and a constructor of his or her 
own knowledge, rather than as a more passive receptacle of 
information and expertise. (p. 2)

	With this view, knowledge is not an inert object to be 
"sent" and "received," but a fluid set of understandings shaped 
both by those who originate it and by those who use it.  
Knowledge use, then, is conceived as an active learning process.  
The implications of this perspective for the activities of 
disability researchers, policymakers, and linking agents are 

Knowledge Use as a Learning Process

The recent work on social cognition . . . has shown clearly that 
information is processed in wondrous ways, few of which are 
replicative of the original information . . . The gist of this 
more recent work is roughly that individuals-alone or in 
organizations- transform and use research in highly selective and 
strategic ways.

					- Huberman, 1987, p. 589

	The perspectives on knowledge use described by Hutchinson 
and Huberman in the preceding section draw from a learning theory 
known as constructivism, which has moved to the forefront of 
educational theory in recent years. Constructivist principles, 
for example, underlie many of the reform-based approaches 
emerging in mathematics and science education, as well as in 
other disciplines.  Some of the basic concepts of constructivism 
can be found in ideas about knowledge utilization dating back to 
the 1970s and before; Hutchinson (1995)  notes that "the 
constructivist perspective is evident in various models of 
knowledge utilization including social interaction, practical 
discourse, two communities, technocratic counsel, and 
theories-in-use models" (p. 92).

	Beliefs about how learning takes place are often articulated 
as metaphors.  The tabula rasa, the image of the human mind as a 
blank slate to be written upon, was once the most common 
metaphor; this theory of learning also has been characterized as 
"the bucket theory of the mind" (Backman, 1982), in which the 
brain is viewed as an empty vessel into which knowledge is 
poured.  Shapiro (1994) notes that "despite the fact that the 
'blank slate' view of the learner is not well regarded, it is 
still the view underlying the practice seen most often in school 
settings" (p. 8).  Much the same can be said about dissemination 
practice in rehabilitation and in other fields.

	Another common image is that of the learner as sponge, 
"soaking up" knowledge-a role that is somewhat more active than 
that of empty vessel, although what the learner absorbs is taken 
in wholesale, without filtering or processing.  A metaphor often 
used in this era of technology is that of the brain as a 
computer, which processes in an orderly, systematic fashion the 
information that is received from outside sources.  In this 
analogy the learner actively does something to or with the 
information, which can be presumed to be altered in appearance, 
if not in substance, from the form in which it was
originally received.

	According to constructivist principles, none of these 
metaphors adequately describes the ways in which we as learners 
process information.  Constructivism presumes that new knowledge 
is filtered and shaped by the learner's pre-existing experience 
and understandings.  Learners, from the youngest children to the 
oldest adults, are constantly seeking to make sense of the 
environment; to do so, we  "construct" explanations that make 
sense based on our personal experiences. Knowing, then, "is an 
adaptive activity" (von Glasersfeld, 1995, p. 7), concerned with 
reaching functional understandings about the various aspects of 

Taken as the advancement of understanding, the cognitive endeavor 
starts from what happens to be currently adopted and proceeds to 
integrate and organize, weed out and supplement, not in order to 
arrive at truth about something already made but in order to make 
something right-to construct something that works cognitively, 
that fits together and handles new cases, that may implement 
further inquiry and invention. (Bauersfeld, 1995, p. 163)

	As Driver (1995) explains, "Human beings construct models of 
their environment, and new experiences [and information] are 
interpreted and understood in relation to existing mental models 
or schemes" (p. 386).  The metaphors that suggest constructivist 
perspectives, then, are those of building and shaping new 
structures.  In writing about the impact of the learning process 
on the dissemination of research, Huberman (1990) states:

Prior knowledge does not operate like a sponge, sopping up new 
information . . . Rather, prior understandings are the mold into 
which new
information is poured, such that the new understandings may not 
correspond to the researcher's conception of his own study. (p. 

	From a constructivist viewpoint, the extent to which an 
individual's existing understandings may be "right" or "wrong" is 
essentially irrelevant; what matters is how well those 
understandings work in helping the person make sense of her or 
his environment.  One of the major theorists of constructivism, 
von Glasersfeld (1995) explains: "To the biologist, a living 
organism is viable as long as it manages to survive in its 
environment.  To the constructivist, concepts, models, theories, 
and so on are viable if they prove adequate in the contexts in 
which they were created" (pp. 7-8).  Ackerman (1995) elaborates 
on this idea, explaining that "from a learner's point of view, 
there are no such things as misconceptions.  There are only 
discrepancies, either between points of view or between a 
person's activity and some unexpected effects of this activity" 
(p. 342).

	What is "adequate" for one individual (or organization) may 
vary as well. The user's self-interest and self-image sometimes 
include considerations that conflict with what may, in terms of 
efficiency or cost benefits or effectiveness of operation, appear 
to be the "best" solution.  Merely telling people that their 
ideas or practices are wrong, or ineffective, or outdated, or 
that a better mousetrap is available to replace the one they are 
currently using, is generally an inadequate approach to 
encouraging change. 

	From a constructivist perspective, the task of getting 
learners to change their pre-existing understandings begins with 
helping them to recognize-and to be bothered by-the 
"discrepancies" that Ackerman discusses.  As Shapiro (1994) 
points out, "In order to take on a new viewpoint, one must decide 
to let go of an old one. There must be a reason to decide to make 
a shift in thinking" (p. 7).  Sechrest et al. (1994), in applying 
this understanding to the task of dissemination, note that if 
practitioners "are not
in a state of uncertainty about a problem" (p. 187) the mere 
provision of information is not likely to lead to changes in 
behavior.  Backer (1994) makes the point even more bluntly: 
"People and organizations develop the energy to change when faced 
with real pain . . . whether the nature of change is personal 
(psychotherapy) or work-related (organizational change, 
implementation of an innovation)" (p. 7).

	Fuhrman (1994), among others, sees constructivist 
perspectives as directly applicable to the enterprise of 

The research on utilization is quite clear: the meaning of 
research is constructed by the user . . . Individuals translate 
research findings through the lens of prior knowledge and 
understanding, making sense of new knowledge in the context of 
their daily activities . . . It is research on learning that is 
the foundation of understanding knowledge utilization.  We [the 
educational research community] should be the last to offer 
simple access or supply-side solutions to promoting utilization.  
We should be the first to view use as a complex change process in 
which "getting the research out there" is only the first step. 
(p. 138) 

	In discussing the practical implications of this 
perspective, Fuhrman argues for two major changes in current 
practice: "First, we should focus more on the context of 
knowledge users, and second, we should strengthen the integration 
between research and dissemination" (p. 138).  In addition, 
Buttolph (1992), in an article focused on the ways in which 
potential users adapt research results, notes that 
constructivism-which she calls generative learning-changes 
traditional ideas about the stages at which potential users begin 
(often unconsciously) to reshape, or adapt, research findings to 
fit their previous understandings:
Experts have agreed that adaptation takes place later rather than 
sooner in
the diffusion process . . . Because generative learning begins at 
the knowledge stage of diffusion, which is the first stage 
(Rogers, 1983, p. 165) however, I suggest that adaptation begins 
during the knowledge stage as well.  The seeds of adaptation are 
sown in the initial diffusion stages, during first awareness and 
interest; later, when individuals adopt and implement the 
innovation wholeheartedly, they have already changed it to fit 
their particular situation. (p. 468)

Four Dimensions of Knowledge Utilization

	While no all-encompassing theory or explanation of knowledge 
utilization has been described and tested, the literature 
includes a great deal of information that can help to strengthen 
dissemination efforts.  Within the varied perspectives about 
dissemination, authors generally consider some combination of 
these four major elements:
 	the dissemination source, that is, the agency, organization, 
or individual responsible for creating the new knowledge or 
product, and/or for conducting dissemination activities,
 	the content or message that is disseminated, that is, the new 
knowledge or product itself, as well as any supporting 
information or materials,
 	the dissemination medium, that is, the ways in which the 
knowledge or product is described, "packaged," and transmitted, 
 	the user, or intended user, of the information or product to 
be disseminated.

	Important factors related to each of these four elements are 
listed in Exhibit 1, on the following page.  The following 
sections describe major findings related to each element.

The Source of the Message (Originators, Intermediaries)

	Important factors related to the dissemination source-the 
originator of the research results and/or any intermediaries, or 
linking agents, responsible for disseminating the results to 
intended users-include relationships with potential users, the 
source's credibility, and orientation toward use. 

	Building relationships between researchers and users.  An 
important concern here is the "two-communities" perspective on 
research utilization.  As Fuhrman (1994) explains, "We are told 
that researchers and practitioners operate on different 
timelines, use different languages, and respond to different 
incentive systems" (p. 133).  Leung (1992) describes a study that 
concludes "that distrust and even antagonism exist between 
researchers and those who use research" (pp. 287-288).  This gap 
between researchers and the potential users of their research 
becomes an even greater concern, given these persistent findings 
in the literature:

 	The source of information disseminated generally is more 
important to users than the content of the information; according 
to Hutchinson and Huberman (1993), one of the most important 
findings from the research on dissemination is that "the nature 
of the material that is being disseminated is less important than 
the links all the way down the line" (p. 15).

 	Users tend to accept assistance, information, and ideas from 
sources they know and trust (Fullan, 1985; Carrillo, Lumbley & 
Westbrook, 1990; Robinault, Weisinger, & Folsom, 1980).

	Some recent articles, however, note that the two-communities 
model is, in some cases, artificial and inaccurate, particularly 
given the increasing activism among many
persons with disabilities.  Indyk and Rier (1993), for example, 
in a review of AIDS activism, note that grassroots AIDS work 
challenges what they describe as the "bipolar" model, 

demonstrating that those who are affected can be central to the 
spread and application (to say nothing of the creation) of 
knowledge. Grassroots actors often occupy both roles 
simultaneously: much of their knowledge production is geared to 
their own consumption . . . Overall, the grassroots AIDS case 
supports Boggs's (1992) recent formulation . . . [of] a three-way 
exchange in which researchers, decisionmakers, and program 
recipients/research subjects can each function as both knowledge 
producers and knowledge consumers. 
(pp. 14-15)

	Understanding the limitations and biases of research.  One 
factor related to closing the gap between researchers and 
users-and linked to constructivist perspectives about knowledge 
as process rather than as received, objective "truth"-focuses on 
the need for researchers to acknowledge the human limitations and 
fallability of their own endeavors, and to understand the beliefs 
and assumptions they bring to their work.  For example, Buchman 
(1982) discusses the fact that researchers and developers often 
fail to perceive the influence of their own theories and beliefs 
on the outcomes of their work; he quotes Nisbett & Ross (1980) 
regarding "the fallacy of misplaced certainty": 

An important step in reducing people's overconfidence would be 
taken by leading them to recognize that their interpretations of 
events, rather than being simple read-outs of data, are 
inferences that make heavy use of theory.  Once one recognizes 
that the same data would look quite different, and could easily 
support different beliefs, if those data were viewed from
the vantage point of alternative theories, the groundwork for a 
humbler epistemic stance has been laid. (p. 2)
	Duarte and Rice (1992) discuss researcher bias in terms of 
the credibility of research outcomes for minority populations.  
They point out that "ethnocentric biases influence research 
questions, methods, and the interpretation of results" (p. 9).  
Problems with racial/ethnic classification, population sampling, 
an overemphasis on between-group differences and underemphasis of 
within-group differences can affect the credibility of research 
results.  They further argue that "dominant cultural values 
related to individualism, self-reliance, and work are evident in 
rehabilitation legislation, policies, and procedures (e.g., 
individualized written rehabilitation program plans, independent 
living programs)" (p. 12).  Again, it is important for 
researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to be aware of their 
own values and assumptions.

	Factors influencing credibility.  Some utilization studies 
have focused explicitly on the issue of credibility.  The more 
sophisticated studies identify two components of credibility: 
expertise and trustworthiness.  Expertise  "refers to how 
knowledgeable or competent the audience perceives the speaker to 
be on the topic," whereas trustworthiness  "means the degree to 
which the audience believes the communicator is honest or sincere 
in the statements made" (Marquart, O'Keefe, & Gunther, 1995, p. 
390).  Some studies suggest that perceived expertise is less 
important than trustworthiness in obtaining audience support. 

	Marquart, O'Keefe, and Gunther have identified two factors 
that are linked to the persuasive impact of source credibility: 
the "message receivers' perceptions of the similarity of 
attitudes between the source and themselves," and the message 
receivers' "degree of involvement in the issue" (p. 391).  They 
conducted a study of dairy farmers regarding the credibility of 
sources of information related to bovine growth hormone (BGH) in 
which they found that:

Dairy farmers generally differentiated between the 
trustworthiness and expertise of information sources . . . Other 
dairy farmers were considered significantly more trustworthy than 
experts . . . Also scoring higher on trust than expertise were 
major farm and general news media . . . Evaluated as having 
greater expertise but being less trustworthy were institutional 
and commercial sources, including BGH manufacturers, university 
dairy scientists, feed company nutritionists, government 
officials overall, and the FDA specifically. (p. 396)

	This study revealed that the more farmers disagreed with 
certain  information sources, the less trustworthy they found 
those sources to be.  The intensity of farmers' involvement with 
the issue also influenced their perceptions about information 
sources.  The farmers who felt most strongly about the BGH issue 
not only discredited the trustworthiness of sources with which 
they disagreed, they also questioned the sources' expertise.  The 
authors report that the most intensely involved farmers "seem to 
impugn the knowledge even more than the motives of these 
information sources" (p. 399).

	Orientation of the research or linking organization.  
Studies suggest that when researchers actively gear their work to 
use by specific groups, research utilization is improved.  In 
analyzing the success of the agricultural extension model, Rogers 
(1988) notes that agricultural researchers traditionally have 
oriented their work "toward potential utilization of their 
innovations" (p. 501) in production technology.  Fuhrman (1994), 
discusses the need for "building a client-based research agenda . 
. . and developing forms for research that bring producers and 
users closer together" (p. 133).  These latter, Furhman states, 
include collaborative, or action, research projects whose 
benefits include "better focus on problems important to practice, 
enhanced validity of instruments and analyses, improved 
presentation of findings, and greater authority for findings" (p. 

	Organizational structures and reward systems also can play 
an important role. Dentler (1984), in discussing results of a 
study of dissemination activities among regional educational 
laboratories, noted several organizational factors that appeared 
to improve laboratories' dissemination effectiveness:

Labs, we found, become capable of disseminating knowledge 
products and services with a high impact on practitioners when 
they are organized toward this end.  This capacity is built up 
when a lab's board and director give dissemination a reasonably 
strong and clear place in the mission of the lab; when the value 
of providing information, technical assistance, and staff 
development services is internalized within the subculture of the 
lab to a point where all staff identify with the value; when 
dissemination specialists on the lab staff are not sequestered 
and compartmentalized but are dealt into the applied research, 
policy planning, development, and evaluation functions of the lab 
as a whole, as well as its status structure; and when 
accountability for impact and rewards for its attainment are part 
of the operational code of the lab. (p. 4)

The Message, or Content, to be Disseminated

	The information, material, or products to be disseminated 
can vary tremendously.  Edwards (1991) notes that research 
results can include "theories, models, paradigms, postulates, 
generalizations, or findings . . . validated tests, curricula, 
techniques, programs, or systems," while technological advances 
can include "software products, devices, equipment, or machinery" 
(p. 54).

	A number of the early studies of knowledge utilization 
focused on content attributes that were likely to influence 
adoption; Edwards reports that she "could find no significant 
changes" (p. 56) in the literature relating to content attributes 
since 1983.  She lists five major attributes that were "found to 
be significantly related to the rate of adoption"; these include 
relative advantage, which relates to issues of profit, 
efficiency, or yield; compatibility; complexity; observability; 
and trialability, or the ability to be tested.

	Dearing and Meyer (1994) propose a list of eleven attributes 
of research outcomes, culled from the literature, that help 
determine the likelihood of adoption of research outcomes: 
economic advantage, effectiveness, observability, trialability, 
complexity, compatibility, reliability, divisibility, 
applicability, commutuality, and radicalness.   However, the 
focus is less on the attributes themselves than on the 
effectiveness with which they are communicated to potential user 
audiences.  All eleven attributes are described in terms of how 
they are communicated, rather than in terms of their inherent 
characteristics; for example, complexity  is described as "the 
degree to which an innovation is communicated as being relatively 
difficult to use" (p. 46).

	Quality of the content.   A number of authors have cited the 
importance of quality to successful use of research results.  
However, Edwards (1991) reports that empirical studies have 
"found no relationship between research quality and use" (p. 61).  
This finding is confirmed by Huberman (1987), in his reports on a 
series of utilization studies conducted in Switzerland:

The poorly conceived and executed studies in the sample appear to 
do as well as the others, or perhaps even slightly better, 
because research staff in the especially well-designed studies 
underinvest in dissemination work. (p. 606)

	Florio and DeMartini (1993), in their report on a case study 
of policymakers' use of research, note, "If research conforms to 
the expectations of the policymaker, it also does not need to be 
high in quality.  If the policymaker feels that the social 
science information is counter-intuitive, then research quality 
is more important" (pp. 107-108).  Quality of research content, 
then, appears to be a necessary, but insufficient, consideration 
in the success of dissemination efforts.

	Compatibility with users' needs and beliefs.  Most lists of 
attributes of research outcomes include compatibility.  Dentler 
(1984), among others, stresses that "the property of knowledge 
that is essential for [use] is its congruence with the real world 
of practice" (p. 6).  Similarly, a study of Tennessee's 140 
school systems reported by West and Rhoton (1992) concludes that 
"the strongest barrier to research utilization, statewide, was 
the [perceived] non-practical focus of research reports" (p. 13).  
This finding fits closely with constructivist perspectives on 
knowledge utilization; related findings are discussed in the 
section on users.

	Kinds of information to include.  At least some studies have 
focused on the types of information that need to be included if 
dissemination activities are to be effective.  For example, 
Backer (1988, cited in Edwards, 1991) recommends that materials 
should "emphasize positive behavior more than negative 
consequences of current behavior," and should "emphasize current 
rewards, not distant negative consequences" (p. 91).  A study of 
smoking behavior and its implications for the kinds of 
information that people need in order to make behavior changes 
"suggests that the most important contribution to changes in 
practice are those that move the knowledge user from awareness to 
understanding and to commitment" (Kennedy, 1989, p. 112).  Yet, 
the author notes:

The predominant kind of information disseminated by educational 
disseminators is not designed to facilitate this movement.  
Instead, it
assumes clients need help only with stage four-the stage when 
specific choices are made . . . The knowledge that moves people 
to commitment is knowledge about fundamental principles and 
ideas, whereas the knowledge that helps people make choices is 
about techniques and strategies.  To make decisions, we need a 
different, more fundamental kind of knowledge than we need to 
make a choice.  (p. 112)

	Educators engaged in dissemination activities, Kennedy 
argues, "move too quickly from ideas to techniques: from a 
finding that 'engaged time' is important, for instance, to a list 
of techniques for increasing engaged time" (p. 113).  He 
recommends the inclusion of background information conveying 
basic principles and rationales for proposed changes.  However, 
this recommendation must be balanced against the recommendations 
for brevity made in a number of other utilization studies.

	Comprehensibility.  To be effective, the outcomes of 
research must be comprehensible to intended users.  As Majumder, 
et al. (1994) emphasize, "Regardless of how fast, cheap, and 
accurate the transmission of data might be, those parcels of data 
are worthless if the receiver cannot interpret and use them" (p. 
332).  Leung (1992),  in describing a study that reinforces the 
"two-communities" perspective, notes that "language differences, 
which often hinder communication," (pp. 287-288) were listed as a 
primary cause of negative attitudes about researchers and lack of 
use of research outcomes.  West and Rhoton (1992), in analyzing 
the results of their study of Tennessee school systems, note that 
administrators who described research results as impractical 
"felt that research was often difficult to understand and 
confusing.  They noted that reports are usually too technical and 
that the reports would be utilized more if the material was 
presented in a clearer fashion" (p. 13).

	Backer (1988) discusses the necessity to "transform" (p. 20) 
the message to be
disseminated for user groups.  A special education dissemination 
project reported by Felker (1984) found that "research 
'translation' is necessary" (p. 36).  And Newman and Vash (1994) 
state that many researchers "need help re-packaging [material] 
for those who supply the general public" (p. 385).  Findings in 
the literature include the following recommendations for 
"translating" and "transforming" research outcomes into usable, 
comprehensible messages:

 	Backer (1988, cited in Edwards, 1991) recommends that 
researchers "provide simple, clear, and repeated messages" (p. 

 	"What is known about an innovation needs to be translated into 
language that potential users can understand readily, abbreviated 
so that attention spans are not exceeded, and made to concentrate 
on the key issues of 'Does it work?' and 'How can I replicate it 
in my organization?'"  (Backer, 1991, p. 234).

 	Soumerai and Avorn (1987, cited in Sechrest et al., 1994) 
"concluded that to be effective, dissemination efforts must be 
characterized by brevity, repetition, and reinforcement" (p. 

 	Glaser, Abelson, and Garrison (1983) note that "an innovation 
. . . will be accepted more easily if it is at what Halffner 
[1973] calls a low 'level of abstraction'" (p. 15).

 	Steinke (1995) cites Shapiro (1986), who found that "readers 
processed new scientific information more rigorously when 
articles provided analogies"
	(p. 435).

The Dissemination Medium

	Those engaged in knowledge utilization-as well as potential 
users-sometimes have difficulty in distinguishing the 
dissemination medium from the message; as a result, the 
literature includes a number of efforts to sort out the two.  
Machlup (1993, p. 451) explains that the use of a mode of 
transportation, such as a truck, "and use of the transported 
object are separate things.  Likewise, use of a mode of 
information should not be confused with the use of the message or 
knowledge conveyed."  Experts acknowledge, however, that in many 
cases, "knowledge cannot be easily separated from its product, 
program, practice, policy, or public information vehicle.  In 
fact, there are many interaction effects.  Thus the 
[dissemination] vehicle selected may enhance or detract from the 
content it carries" (Klein & Gwaltney, 1991, p. 245).  Selection 
of the dissemination media most appropriate for a particular 
content and audience, then, is a complex and challenging task.

	The media and formats available for dissemination are 
increasing rapidly with new technological development.  This 
proliferation is helpful in meeting the need for numerous and 
varied dissemination media.  However, it is necessary to keep in 
mind that, as Leung (1992) reports, some "consumers continue to 
lack the basic tools required for accessing what is currently 
available" (p. 293); he notes that one of the most elementary-and 
important-guidelines for selecting a dissemination medium is that 
"utilization will not occur if persons with disabilities cannot 
physically gain access" (p. 299).

	Another critical understanding is that, no matter what new 
and exciting technologies come along, personal interaction 
remains the most effective dissemination medium.  Paisley (1993) 
points out that "the sweeping claims made for digital media today 
are similar to those made for analog media 20 years ago, when in 
fact the analog media played only a secondary role to the prime 
movers of social networks and personal
influence" (p. 222).

	Digital technology and new equity concerns.  As Paisley 
(1993) notes, "Digital technologies bring the most significant 
new communication capabilities to knowledge utilization in the 
1990s" (p. 222).  The widespread use of "small media" such as 
personal computers, and the proliferation of use of the Internet 
and other electronic networks, have brought new, cost-effective 
dissemination channels to an ever-broadening audience.  However, 
Paisley, among others, points out that, while "the new small 
media seem ideal for knowledge utilization . . . little is known 
about matching these media to the dissemination, coordination, 
technical assistance, and problem solving roles of knowledge 
utilization programs"  (p. 227). 

	In addition, as the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment 
(1988) has noted, "The advent of electronic dissemination raises 
new equity concerns" (p. 9).  NIDRR (1994) has pointed out the 
implications of specific types of disability, such as movement or 
visual impairments, on access to computer use and the need for 
adaptive devices.  Anderson, Bikson, Law, and Mitchell (1995) 
report "very large differences" in household computer access and 
use of electronic networks by income category, "large 
differences" by level of educational attainment, and some 
differences by race that cannot be attributed to other factors: 

At least part of the race-based difference is due to lower 
average household income and lower average educational attainment 
among blacks as compared with whites.  However, our analysis 
shows that those characteristics do not account for the entire 
difference in outcome variables.  Rather, racial and ethnic 
characteristics exert an independent influence on home computer 
access and network use . . . There is no generally accepted 
explanation for these [racial/ethnic] kinds of differences.  

	Equity concerns are not confined to the newest and most 
sophisticated technologies.  There are still about six million 
U.S. homes that do not have direct access to a telephone 
(Communications Development Inc., electronic manuscript).  And, 
as Leung (1992) notes, basic services such as captioning for 
persons with deafness are still not available to many persons 
with disabilities.

	The primacy of personal interaction.  Perhaps the most 
consistent and ubiquitous finding in the literature on knowledge 
utilization is the importance of personal contact for the success 
of dissemination activities.  The following is a sampling of the 
variety and persistence with which this conclusion is presented:

 	"Face-to-face contact facilitates the adoption of disseminated 
practices, to a far greater extent than the mere provision of 
information" (Crandall, 1989, p. 95, reporting on the DESSI 
studies, one set of the major, federally funded dissemination 
studies of the 1970s and 1980s).

 	The results of a "utilization study" comparing three methods 
for promoting the adoption of a job seekers workshop for drug 
treatment clients indicated "that dissemination methods employing 
personal contacts (site visits and conferences) produced 
significantly more adoptions than did printed materials alone" 
(David, 1991, p. 292, citing Sorenson et al., 1988).

 	In reporting on a special education dissemination study, 
Felker (1984) states, "It appears that, for these audiences and 
circumstances at least, face-to-face and custom-tailored 
communication is a key to effective dissemination" 
	(p. 37).

 	"The primacy of personal contact in the diffusion of 
innovations has been known for years" (Fullan, 1991, p. 53).

 	"Directed personal intervention is by far the most potent 
technical support resource, and may be a necessary condition for 
many forms of utilization" (Peterson & Emrick, 1983, p. 243, 
reviewing four of the major dissemination and implementation 
studies of the 1970s). 
 	"One of the more stable findings in the research utilization 
literature is that, for a study to exert a strong conceptual 
influence on practitioners, interactions between researchers and 
practitioners must occur not only on completion of the study, but 
also during and, ideally, before the conduct of the study.  Also, 
many of these contacts must be face-to-face" (Huberman, 1990, p. 
365).  In a 1992 article, Huberman talks about "sustained 
interactivity" as a persistent finding in the literature.

 	Hutchinson (1995) in a survey of personnel involved in child 
welfare services, found: "The importance of person-to-person 
communications within and outside the organization in the 
information acquisition process is 	demonstrated 
consistently" (p. 100).

	The frequency of interpersonal contact also matters.  
Dentler (1984) says that intensity of assistance is an important 
factor.  Similarly, Peterson and Emrick (1983) recommend that 
"direct intervention should be distributed over a period of two 
years or longer in most cases, with more frequent contacts 
occurring in the initial stages" (p. 243).  Louis (1983), in 
reporting on the Pilot State Dissemination Program (another of 
the major studies of the 1970s), states:

The Pilot State findings suggest that a little field agent 
initiative in creating a demand [for information] may actually 
result in lower rates of use than does no involvement.  This 
occurred because individuals who were unfamiliar with using 
research-based information or with a retrieval system were 
stimulated to make requests but did not receive assistance in how 
to interpret or use the materials they received.  (p. 77)

	Using multiple media formats.  While stressing the necessity 
for in-person support, most experts agree on the need for a 
combination of media and interpersonal strategies (Edwards, 1991; 
Peterson & Emrick, 1983).  Crandall (1989), for example, 
concludes that "adequate materials and procedural guidelines, 
coupled with responsive, in-person assistance during later 
implementation, are imperative for maximum success" (p. 95).  
Sechrest et al., (1994) make a similar point, focusing as well on 
the importance of the intensity of the dissemination effort:

For every audience, multifaceted approaches to communication will 
be required if effective communication is to be achieved.  Single 
modality efforts are not likely to be effective . . . Ample 
evidence exists to show that efforts at low levels of intensity 
simply do not have dependable effects.  (p. 193)

	Targeting media for persons with disabilities.  Some 
information exists related to specific information channels that 
can be effective in reaching persons with disabilities.  Fullmer 
and Majumder (1991) reported the existence of 36 electronic 
bulletin boards related to disability issues; they also noted 
that many Usenet newsgroups focus on disability issues.  Newman 
and Vash (1994) conclude that people with disabilities who are 
already active participants in the disability service system "are 
likely to access new knowledge through their service-delivery 
contacts" (p. 384).  However, they point out

People with disabilities who get along without services are 
little more likely to have access to such information than the 
general public.  In order to reach them reliably, the mass media 
must be used.  In addition, special targets must be identified, 
such as employers . . . With respect to reaching people with 
disabilities who are not presently service consumers, low-risk 
approaches include: established radio and cable TV programs on 
disability issues; NEW MOBILITY, MAINSTREAM, and other magazines 
catering to readers with disabilities; and local giveaway 
newspapers which run quality features focusing on human-need 
issues.  Higher-risk approaches, such as investing time and 
effort in attempts to interest mainstream magazines, syndicated 
columnists, or TV networks, can be explored as budgets permit.  
(p. 385)

The Intended Users

The major requirement for external assisters is to figure out how 
to work with local context.
					- Fullan 1991, p. 222
	As noted earlier, a focus on the user as "an agent who is 
active in determining how she or he will make use of" (Buttolph, 
1992, p. 463) new information or products  is perhaps the most 
important element in our current understandings about 
dissemination.  This new understanding has two principal 
implications.  First, the materials to be disseminated must 
address the context and concerns of a potential user's daily 
life.  Most dissemination and utilization experts conclude that 
the most effective way to address this requirement is to involve 
potential users in the project from the beginning, with ongoing 
and substantial interaction between researchers and users 
(Edwards, 1991; Fuhrman,
1994; Leung, 1992; Westbrook, 1994).

	The second major implication is that disseminators must 
attend to the potential user's "readiness for change," which 
Backer (1994) defines as "willingness-a state of mind" that is 
the precursor "of actual behaviors needed to adopt an innovation 
(or to resist it)" (p. 2).  Backer goes on to note that, "in 
practice, factors related to readiness are often ignored" (p. 3).  
He describes conditions needed for change, which include "active 
interventions... to deal with the human dynamics of change . . . 
to overcome resistances, fears, and anxieties about change" (p. 

	In discussing readiness for change, Backer (1994) also warns 
disseminators not to assume automatically that a user's lack of 
such readiness is a negative circumstance: "Low readiness for 
change is not necessarily irrational, and in fact may represent 
an important source of input about the practical worth of 
innovations, or the strategies by which they are implemented."  
He notes that the first four stages of the Concerns Based 
Adoption Model's levels of use model "are directly concerned with 
readiness" (p. 4).

	One important task for disseminators is to understand the 
incentives that can influence potential users to change.  
Hutchinson and Huberman (1993) note that incentives may be 
internal to the user, or external, that is, applied or mandated 
by outside sources.  They report on several studies that

found that both personal incentives and organizational incentives 
were strongly associated with use, but that personal incentives 
were a more potent force.  External stimuli alone have limited 
impact in producing the openness required for the adoption of new 
ideas.  However, mandates, when combined with personal 
incentives, improve the prospects for implementation.  Mandates 
may stimulate personal incentives when
professional rewards are visible, concrete, and personally 
meaningful. (p. 14)

	Involving user audiences in setting research agendas and 
conducting research and development activities can help to 
address issues related to readiness for change.  The literature 
includes some specific strategies for engaging users in ways that 
help to overcome their tendencies to discount research results 
that do not agree with their pre-existing beliefs.  One such 
strategy is reported by Brown-McGowan and Eichelberger (1993).  
They describe a Knowledge Use System (KUS) originally developed 
by Barabba and Zaltman (1991) for use with corporate 
decisionmakers, to help increase their use of market research.  
Researchers first conducted extensive discussions with managers 
before developing a marketing survey questionnaire.  Next, the 
researchers shared the draft questionnaire with the managers.  
After a final draft was agreed upon, researchers used the 
questionnaire to collect information from managers regarding: 

(1) results they would expect the questionnaire to produce 
(expected results); (2) the range of findings they would view as 
reasonable (comfort zones); (3) the importance of each question, 
or issue, to each decisionmaker, particularly if results varied 
greatly from their expectations (significance); and (4) 
individual responses to each question that can be sent to others 
involved in the project (comments).  (p. 402) 

	The researchers summarized these responses and prepared a 
report just as they would after actual market research: They 
presented in the report three types of simulated results: "good 
news, bad news, and surprises" (p. 402).  Only then did the 
researchers actually conduct the market research and share the 
final results with managers, who also received a report showing 
the outcomes predicted by the managers, both individually and as 
a group.  This approach has been used successfully in both 
corporate and nonprofit
settings.  Although the specific steps are not necessarily 
applicable to all kinds of research and development, the 
important elements-seeking input from users at all stages of the 
process, structuring activities around issues identified as 
important by users themselves, and helping users to reflect on 
their own preconceived ideas and concerns-should be relevant to 
any endeavor.

	Along these same lines, Huberman (1989) recommends "multiple 
exchanges between researchers and potential users of that 
research at different phases of the study" (p. 9-10).  He 
recommends user involvement in at least four phases: (1) before 
the study is conducted, "where scope is negotiated and the target 
public's preexisting knowledge is assessed," (2) during the 
study, "where members of the target public are involved in 
reviewing findings and determining how findings might best be 
presented," (3) "during analysis and write-up, when a 
dissemination plan is developed and the implications of the 
findings for challenging local norms are examined," and (4) after 
the study, when "the study findings are brought directly to the 
user organization."

	Some experts recommend that disseminators consider carefully 
the size of user audience that they will be able to address 
effectively.  Dentler (1984), for example, states, "The larger 
the number of recipient organizations aimed at, the lower the 
resulting impact is likely to be" (p. 4).  He notes the dilemma 
that "very large and diverse user targets are a waste of effort, 
while very small, homogeneous user targets must be amplified 
somehow so that the ultimate scale of improvements, areal and 
demographic, is not minute."

	The literature also includes strategies through which 
researchers can refine their understandings about target 
audiences.  Backer (1994) discusses "social marketing," a 
strategy that is  drawn from corporate marketing concepts, noting 
that  "social marketing provides a management framework for 
systematic efforts to understand a target audience
for change" (p. 17).  He describes several major concepts:

Audience segmentation, a key concept of social marketing, 
involves subdividing the targets (e.g., teachers in a large 
school district) into both "demographic" and "psychographic" 
groups, based on an understanding of what personal or group 
characteristics have a bearing on their behavior with respect to 
innovation adoption.  These subdivided audiences can then be 
targeted with different information, training, persuasive 
approaches or rewards designed to promote innovation adoption.  
Learning what the individual differences are requires audience 
analysis, frequently using marketing techniques such as "focus 
groups."  (p. 17)

	Virtually no empirical studies have been conducted to 
explore differences in dissemination issues related to specific 
racial or ethnic groups or among persons with disabilities.  
There is some information, however, to suggest that attention 
should be paid by disability researchers to differences in 
audience demographics.

	Leung (1993) reports that "factors having strong association 
with disability include education, income, race, and ethnicity," 
and that "members of ethnic and racial minorities are much more 
likely to experience disability" (p. 94).  For example, he 
reports that one in six persons with paralysis of the extremities 
is Black, that Hispanics have the highest rates of orthopedic 
disabilities, and that American Indians have work related 
disabilities 1.5 times that of the general U.S. population. In 
seeking explanations for this correlation, he notes:

Although specific data are lacking, factors related to increased 
probability for disabilities include: poor prenatal and perinatal 
care, inadequate nutrition and diet, greater risk for injury 
because of living conditions and types of
employment situations, inaccessible health care and a lack of 
proper health care knowledge and education.  (p. 94)

	There is evidence that members of minority populations who 
have disabilities are not obtaining the rehabilitation services 
they need (Duarte & Rice, 1992).  Minorities with disabilities 
also tend to be underemployed in comparison with their white 
counterparts (Leung, 1993).

	Strategies for researchers in avoiding bias, as recommended 
by Davis (1992, cited in Duarte & Rice, 1992) include assuring 
that members of minority communities who are  being studied are 
represented on research teams, and getting feedback about results 
from persons from the groups studied, to help identify 
inaccuracies in interpretations.

	Cultural differences may affect the ways in which 
individuals interact and in which they perceive the work and 
communications of disability researchers and practitioners.  
These differences, according to Duarte and Rice (1992) and 
others,  may  include "world view, family boundaries, quality of 
life, importance of religion, meaning of work, meaning of 
education, decision-making style, belief in change, and response 
to change" (p. 17).  Duarte and Rice note that experts in "the 
field of intercultural communication emphasize cultural 
differences related to context (the information that surrounds 
events), space, time, speed (with which relationships are 
developed), information flow, and rules (and rituals)."

	Leung (1993), reporting on factors important among Asian 
American cultures, discusses "the importance of family with age, 
sex, and generational status being primary determinants of role 
behavior" (p. 95).  He concludes that "the emphasis for many 
Asian American families is more on the welfare of the family than 
of any particular individual within the family," and cites the 
work of Sue (1981), who "pointed out the preference
of many Asian Americans for minimization of conflict and that 
'much effort is expended to avoid offending others'" (p. 95).

	Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988) conclude that 
"individualism" vs. "collectivism," or a focus on individual 
autonomy as opposed to family or community well-being-"is the 
major dimension of cultural variability isolated by theorists 
across disciplines" (p. 40).  They see this difference as 
prevalent between the predominant U.S. culture and most minority 
cultures in this country.  They also note another important 
distinction, based on the work of Hall (1976), who 
"differentiates cultures on the basis of the communication that 
predominates in the culture," distinguishing between 
"high-context" and "low-context" communication.  "Low-context" 
communication is more explicit; more is stated, rather than 
relying on context.  American culture falls toward the low 
context end of the spectrum, while "most Asian cultures, such as 
the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, in contrast, fall toward the 
high-context end of the continuum" (p. 43).

	At least some research suggests that persons from different 
racial and cultural backgrounds have varied means of obtaining 
information and varied sources that they trust.  One study 
reported by Edwards (1991) focused on three different Los Angeles 
communities: Watts, whose residents were predominantly black and 
low-income, Boyle Heights, which was predominantly Mexican 
American, and Reseda, which was predominantly white 
middle-income.  Edwards reports that the researchers:

found marked differences in the patterns of information seeking 
among the communities.  Watts residents preferred interpersonal 
networks of family and friends, as information sources.  Boyle 
Heights residents preferred institutions or agencies and Reseda 
residents preferred mass media (print, television, radio) and the 
telephone.  The communities also differed in
choice of newspaper or station to watch or hear.  (p. 94)

	Edwards also sought to locate studies that focused on the 
information-seeking behaviors of people with disabilities.  She 
found a study by the Human Resources Center (1990), which 
"surveyed information seeking among people with     disabilities 
. . . Preliminary findings were [that] most used sources of 
information include friends and social service programs" (p. 94).

	In attempting to analyze audience characteristics, however, 
it is important to recall the warnings described in an earlier 
section of this review.  Studies suggest that analyses of racial 
and ethnic demographics often overemphasize between-group 
differences and under-emphasize within-group differences, so that 
differences between racial groups, for example, may be 
exaggerated while differences within a specific racial group may 
be overlooked.  Leung (1993) quotes Lee (1990), who described 
"the danger of assuming that all Black people are the same and 
that one methodological approach is universally applicable in any 
therapeutic intervention with them" (p. 95).  Leung concludes 
that "many factors serve to influence any particular individual, 
including the amount of acculturation or assimilation-the time 
that an individual or family has lived in the U.S., socioeconomic 
status and education, and self identification" (p. 95).

	Similar warnings are relevant to studies that seek to 
identify characteristics of persons with disabilities.  As 
O'Connor (1993) states:

It is important to understand people with disabilities in light 
of all the forces that impact on their lives.  Looking only at 
disability limits a person's identity and does little to help us 
understand how a person's ethnicity, gender, class, sexual 
preference, and religion play a role in their identity.  (p. 16)

Implications of Utilization Research for NIDRR Grantees

	It is difficult to conclude with a few tidy generalizations, 
given the scope and complexity of the literature on dissemination 
and knowledge utilization.  For those concerned with improving 
and expanding the use of disability research, however, perhaps 
the most important conclusion is reported by Fuhrman (1994), who 
quotes a 1984 study by Yin and Moore: "Research utilization 
begins when research and development begins, and is not a 
sequential step that only follows the research and development" 
(p. 142).

	Major conclusions that have strong implications for the ways 
in which disability research is conducted and disseminated 
include the following eight points:

 	Dissemination is far more than the simple distribution of 
paper or products; it is a process requiring a careful match 
among (a) the creation of products or knowledge, and the context 
of that creation, (b) the needs, contexts, prior experiences, 
values, and beliefs of target audiences, and (c) the content, 
media, formats, and language used in getting the outcomes into 
the hands, minds, and activities of those target audiences.
 	The goal of all dissemination should be utilization.  
Utilization may mean different things to different members of a 
target audience; in some cases, it may mean rejection of a 
product or research finding.  The critical element of utilization 
is that the research outcome must be critically and thoroughly 
digested, and the individual (or organization) must fit the new 
information with her or his prior understandings and experience.
 	One of the most effective ways to increase utilization-and to 
improve the quality and relevance of research-is to involve 
potential users in planning and implementation of the research 
design itself.
 	Effective dissemination requires an understanding of knowledge 
use as a process of learning, and of change.
 	Effective dissemination is critically linked to its timeliness 
and comprehensiveness.
 	Effective dissemination of disability research requires 
careful planning and effort throughout the life of a research 
project.  Huberman (1990) concludes, from a survey of the 
utilization literature, that projects need to allocate twelve 
percent of project time and resources to dissemination 
 	Dissemination requires ongoing support and personal 
intervention in order to achieve utilization.
 	All NIDRR grantees share in the responsibility to disseminate 
their project results to all appropriate target audiences, and in 
accessible formats.

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