The goal of research for scholars has always been to make an impact of some kind - either academically or to society. It’s easy to understand why: When you work as hard as researchers do to find the answers to help solve a problem, you want to share your results with as many people as possible to ensure that you have aided in furthering the betterment of that subject.
In these research findings, it’s important to clarify the terminology used. Two words that are frequently thrown about almost interchangeably are “impact” and “outcome,” but they have distinctly different meanings. A researcher can come up with a final outcome of their work, but that outcome won’t necessarily make an impact. In fact, the very definitions of each can point them in opposite directions.
Defining Impact Versus Outcome
Before the terms “outcome” and “impact” can be used in context with research findings, they have to be understood. Starting with the end result of a research project, outcomes and impacts are traced along with the publication of the submission.
The outcomes are directly correlated to the findings. Outcomes drive a short-term or immediate change in the reader as a result of the information that came from the research itself.
An impact, on the other hand, is a more significant, wider change. Impacts are the result of the outcome being put into place in society or the academic world. When changes occur in the community or to policies, for instance, as a direct result of the outcome of the research, the scholar has now made an impact.
Outcomes can have short-term changes, such as a small group resolution to make a change because of what they read. But in order for an impact to be made, long-term changes must be in place.
How Outcomes and Impacts are Used in Evaluations
Outcome evaluations are frequently used to determine how an element can be improved. These improvements are typically based on individuals and small groups.
A project’s outcome can increase the knowledge that a person or small group has in a particular area, teaching the reader about problems and possible solutions on the subject. It gives readers the skills they need to know to make a change and participate in those direct actions with critical thinking. For an outcome to be successful, it also has to adjust the attitude of the reader or group by convincing them that a change has to be made to encourage them to want to take on the actions suggested as part of the outcome. The reader or group will then decide on an intention to act in a mental or physical way, and a behavior change is made in which the reader or group proceeds to act in ways that demonstrate this intention.
When all of these components are in line, the researcher is said to have had a successful outcome. From there, an impact can be determined.
An evaluation of impact looks for particular factors that exist beyond the outcome. The idea of an impact is that long-term, wide changes have occurred as a direct result of the research in question. Because these are specifically long-term changes, it can take years to determine the impact of a scholar on their subject of research.
Impacts can be seen in areas such as:
● Educational impacts in which the work is able to create long-term effects on how the material is taught, how students are able to comprehend and apply the information, or the learning environment itself. This can also include bettering teacher/student relationships, enhancing the school and surrounding areas to improve safety, and positively involving the community in relationships with the school.
● Environmental impacts in which the local ecosystem or a more global change is positively made. These impacts can include differences in transportation to a more environmentally-friendly form, an adjustment in lifestyle changes to the reader or a community, renewable resources as a form of energy, and many other small or large scale changes that have a positive effect on the environment beyond the immediate or short-term.
● Health impacts that correlate to better health care to a community or condition. With positive health impacts, a community may benefit from better access to medical care or a global impact might be made in which a specific condition is aided through improved knowledge on reducing symptoms or a medication is found that alleviates the problems with a disease. Health impacts can also include increased communication of medical information between the provider and their patient.
Knowing the difference between outcomes and impacts in research findings is crucial to understanding exactly how an article has affected its readership.
Make an Impact Greater With Impactio
Making a positive outcome is always good, but if you can turn that outcome into an impact, it’s even better. One way to get started is to ensure your profile is professionally drafted with Impactio.
Impactio is an all-in-one platform in which expert scholars like you can turn their academic accomplishments into ready-for-publishing PDF documents and web pages. With our easy to use the program, you can insert text, create charts, graphs, and tables to display your data, and turn your work into an impressive and professional profile to demonstrate your academic impact.
Once it’s published, your research is followed through citation indicators so you know exactly how much of an impact you have made on the community. Increase your academic profile by connecting with other experts in Impactio’s network of scholars, share your knowledge, and move from “outcome” to “impact” when you use Impactio.