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Section 1:  Overview

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How to use this manual
triangle.gif (460 bytes) What is formative research?
What do you want to know?
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What is formative research and
how can it help your agency?
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Formative research looks at the community in which an agency is situated, and helps agencies understand the interests, attributes and needs of different populations and persons in their community. Formative research is research that occurs before a program is designed and implemented, or while a program is being conducted. Formative research can help

• define and understand populations at greatest risk for HIV
• create programs that are specific to the needs of those populations
• ensure programs are acceptable and feasible to clients before launching
• improve the relationship between clients and agencies.

Formative research should be an integral part of developing programs or adapting programs, and should be used while the program is on-going to help refine and improve program activities.

Case Study
  Michelle teaches the “Be Proud, Be Responsible” curriculum to teen girls and boys in detention, probation and in alternative schools in San Diego County. Although she has a set curriculum to follow, before she starts a class, she asks the kids a few quick questions. “Usually I go through and I ask them to tell me their name, age, whether they have a child or not, if they’re gang members, something they wanted to be when they were a little boy. Some kids’ll say, ‘I always wanted to be a gangster. My daddy was, my uncle was.’ So I know what his mentality is. Another will say, ‘Well I always wanted to race cars.’ And if the whole class starts laughing, then I know that he does GTAs (grand theft auto). I’ll say, ‘Oh, so you still like that?’ I can pick up right away why he’s saying that.”

Michelle BennettWhat’s Michelle doing? Formative research. She asked a few questions of her audience to get a sense of their background and issues so that she could adapt the curriculum to their needs. Michelle conducted a very quick interview with each teenager and then used the data collected to refine and improve her program.




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Good Questions, Better Answers --  1998 California Department of Health Services and Northern California Grantmakers AIDS Task Force  -- http://www.goodquestions.com