From Academic to Practitioner: Tips for Increasing Engagement With Your Research (Essay on Best Practices)

Date01 May 2021
AuthorAva T. Carcirieri
Published date01 May 2021
Subject MatterEssay
/tmp/tmp-17hXf6x7WG268M/input 999879CCJXXX10.1177/1043986221999879Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeCarcirieri
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2021, Vol. 37(2) 244 –256
From Academic to
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
Practitioner: Tips for
DOI: 10.1177/1043986221999879
Increasing Engagement
With Your Research
(Essay on Best Practices)
Ava T. Carcirieri1,2
Academics and practitioners all too often have little or no contact with each other;
the practitioner does not know what research exists that can inform their practices,
and the academic does not know enough about the institutions they primarily study
to make recommendations that are specific enough to inform a concrete practice
or policy. I leverage my experiences both as an academic and as a data analyst and
domestic violence coordinator at Family Court to outline lessons learned in the
field. I detail how my academic training hindered my work as a practitioner, and how
practitioners differ in terms of conducting internal research and presenting data and
findings. I use my lessons learned and subsequently list several concrete practices
that academics can begin to work into their work to increase communication with
important stakeholders, and tailor their work to practical systemic improvement.
Bridging the gap between academics and practitioners will lead to better research
projects, and findings that will be able to actively enact changes within systems that
academics focus on.
practitioner, best practices, research engagement
1University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA
2Delaware Family Court, Wilmington, NC, USA
Corresponding Author:
Ava T. Carcirieri, Delaware Family Court, Suite 3500, 500 N. King St., Wilmington, DE 19801, USA.

Sociology and specialized fields within it strive to conduct research to improve how
individuals live and how societal systems operate; in a scholar’s world, published
research will inform policy, practice, mobilize and empower marginalized groups, or
meaningfully add to ongoing important debates and conversations. Unfortunately,
some research findings suggest that it takes roughly 17 years for research to begin to
affect policy and practice, if the research is published at all (Hung & Duffett, 2013;
McKelvey et al., 2010; Morris et al., 2011). Many projects reviewed in the afore-
mentioned cited literature were never officially published and remained internal to
the facility where it was conducted. Projects bringing researchers, advocates, and
policy-makers together are few and far between, and these projects are often singu-
lar occurrences and tend to disintegrate the moment the project ends. Working with
practitioners can enhance research and ensure that more individuals actually have
access to academic’s work, and this kind of focused research may also be more
likely to actively change institutional practices. For the purposes of this essay, I will
use the term “academic” to signify those individuals that work within universities
and research institutions in traditional academic roles.
Practitioner research often is considered and conducted separately, for different
purposes, and often is not a collaborative effort (Carr, 2006; Grant, 2008). Academics
and theorists often are sequestered within academia, playing within their own “field”
(Bourdieu, 1984), rarely exploring how their research findings actively contribute to
practically improve the systems that they spend years studying and writing about.
Moreover, much of academics’ recommendations within their findings are generalized
to the extent that local systems they are analyzing cannot use their findings and recom-
mendations in any useful way. This article aims to leverage the author’s experiences
working both as an academic and as a practitioner within a Family Court to provide
academics with ways that they can actively use their research to disseminate important
findings to the institutions that would benefit from them, thereby ensuring that justice
systems operate according to evidence-based practices.
This article begins with an outline of a disconnect between academic writing
and practitioner perspectives, and follows with an overview of the author’s current
role and the lessons learned when transitioning from an academic to a practitioner.
The author then uses those lessons to list some practical guidelines that academics
can follow to build relationships with stakeholders and produce research that is
actively used to shape policy and practice. It is important to reiterate here that
bridging this gap will lead to better research projects and findings that can inform
changes within systems that directly affect the livelihood of individuals embedded
within the justice system.
Highlighting the Disconnect: Academic
One of the last articles I published as an academic (using the data collected from the
court where I was employed) focused on Family Court mediators and hearing officers,
and how they may influence domestic violence victims’ perceptions of fairness of the

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 37(2)
civil protection order (CPO) process (Carcirieri et al., 2019). Some of our findings
were significant and suggested that negative behaviors committed by mediators and
hearing officers influenced how women perceived the CPO process; therefore, the
recommendations made were as follows:
The findings indicate that interpersonal training for court staff should emphasize the
importance of court personnel listening to and validating petitioners’ experiences with
abuse, and to be more encouraging of victims’ right to seek protection in whatever form
they feel is best, whether that be through a consent order or an appearance before a
hearing officer . . . Our study also encourages the policy recommendation that the
opportunity for legal representation should be extended or expanded for individuals who
use the civil court process . . . While having an attorney in and of itself did not significantly
predict whether women thought the overall process was fair, women with attorneys were
highly satisfied with them, suggesting that attorneys may still play an important role in
the CPO process. (Carcirieri et al., 2019)
To begin, it is important to note that none of the above recommendations are bad or
should not be in the paper at all. Rather, as a practitioner reading this, there is nothing
useful to glean from the recommendations section that was not already known to the
practitioner upon reading this. There is a recommendation that court personnel listen
to and validate victims’ experiences of abuse, and that is extremely impractical and not
specific to what is really meant there. As a practitioner, that statement has become
extremely problematic to me and evidence of how little we knew not only about the
mediation process but also about administrative limitations as well. Mediators cannot
spend the time to listen and validate every litigant, but there are things that they can do
to mitigate their negative behaviors.
Interestingly, it is not explained in the article what we meant by “listen” and
“validate”; indeed, as the first author, I may well have written this line and not
known what I meant by it. This is because academics are trained to write in general-
ized recommendations based on findings as an afterthought—a way to sell the
importance of your research to other academics. If I had taken the time during this
several-year project to learn processes, or meet court personnel to learn about what
their constraints are, I may have been able to come up with concrete and specific
training recommendations. This is not to say the way the article is published is unim-
portant, but it is not necessarily useful to practitioners, and it illustrates that academ-
ics publish research with other academics in mind. We are not trained to write or
publish in ways that would be useful to practitioners, and we are also not trained to
disseminate research we do write that might be useful. When this article was pub-
lished, little to no effort was made to get it to the court. I sent this article to relevant
court personnel only after I obtained my job there.
Given the critique of my...

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