Contribution Analysis

What is Contribution Analysis?

In order to understand the impact of the practitioner-research programme, we used an evaluation framework, based on, and adapted from Contribution Analysis (Mayne 2001, Morton 2012).  This approach is useful because it acknowledges that there are many factors which influence change.  Research on its own cannot cause change, but practitioner research, embedded within the complex world of health and social care can contribute to changes in awareness, capacity and practice.

Contribution Analysis Reports

Summary Report: Summary of Impact – PROP Contribution Stories

Contribution Analysis Report 1: This report details the impacts of the PROP project on the practitioners and organisations involved.  It focuses on the activities we undertook to learn about and ‘do’ research as well the challenges and enablers we encountered along the way.  We suggest that taking part in PROP allowed practitioners to become ‘boundary-spanners’ between research and practice.

Report available here:  PROP Pathway to Impact 1 – Becoming a Boundary Spanner

Contribution Analysis Report 2: This report details the impact of the research evidence produced by practitioners and the outcome of their knowledge exchange activities.  Practitioners on PROP worked hard to make their research relevant to practice and people who access support.  This report outlines this work and the changes it made to the sector.

Report available here: PROP Pathway to Impact 2 – New Research Evidence

A detailed outline of our theory of change, the indicators we used and a summary of our evidence can be found here: PROP Detailed Theory of Change

Using Contribution Analysis in the PROP Project

We used contribution analysis to evaluate the PROP (Practitioner-Research: Older People) project at two levels: (1) the practitioner-research programme and (2) its impact on the use of research evidence in policy and practice at local health and social care organisations.

Our contribution story begins with the individual development of the practitioners involved in the research programme.  This development of research skills and experience with research design and implementation provides practitioners with expertise as a ‘researcher’ as well as a ‘practitioner’.

The second half of our contribution shows the use of practitioner-research to improve the use of evidence-based practice in partner organisations.  The evidence produced through the practitioners’ empirical research projects was shared amongst partner organisations and other stakeholders.  The second part of our theory of change maps these processes of engagement and knowledge exchange to determine whether practitioner-led inquiry has an impact on the culture of research use in health and social care organisations.


We used a nested theory of change (Wimbush, Montague, Mulherin 2012) to show the two-stage process of our theory of change (see Appendix 1).  The first stage of the process accounts for the practitioner-research programme and its impact on the practitioners involved, particularly the development of research skills and experience.  The second stage accounts for the engagement and knowledge exchange activities which were used to share knowledge about the individual practitioner-research projects.   In this stage, we evaluate the impact of these research projects on the policy and practice of delivering services for older people and carers in the project’s partner organisations (Alzheimer Scotland, Glasgow City Council, NHS Lothian, Midlothian Council, West Lothian Council and VOCAL).

Each stage of the theory of change is based on Morton’s (2012) results chain template which looks at the impact of research:

  1. Inputs
  2. Activities and Outputs
  3. Engagement/Involvement
  4. Awareness/Reaction
  5. Change in capacity, knowledge or skills
  6. Change in behaviour and practice
  7. Impact

Each stage in the results chain includes the assumptions and risks to the theory of change, as well as the pathway to impact, the indicators for impact and the evidence to be collected.  We used this template to create a prospective theory of change at the beginning of the PROP project (June 2012).  This was refined a three different points in the project (August 2012, November 2012 and January 2013) to include the iterative learning which occurred during the project’s activities. A detailed outline can be found here: PROP Detailed Theory of Change


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