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How To Reduce High-Risk College Drinking: Use Proven Strategies, Fill Research Gaps

Methodology and Caveats

The Panel considered several issues related to the quantity and quality of studies used in evaluating the research literature. They provide an important context for the results reported here and include:

  • Number of available studies. The quantity of studies available—and deemed of sufficient quality for inclusion—differed substantially among topics. For example, many more studies have been conducted on individual-focused interventions and the minimum drinking age laws than on most environmental activities, policies, and comprehensive community interventions. When interpreting the recommendations that follow, it is important to understand that approaches with fewer proven strategies are not necessarily less effective overall; there simply may be less known about them.
     
  • Research design. Authors of commissioned papers adopted different criteria for including studies in their literature reviews depending on the research base available in their topic areas. All looked for high-quality, controlled trials with randomized, representative samples that were not based solely on self-report. However, this type of research design was not always availableand, in some cases, almost never available. Individual papers describe the research consulted and criteria for inclusion in detail. Some reviews included unpublished material to capture recent trends because that information can be slow to appear in the traditional literature. Where feasible, authors weighed studies based on methodological strength in developing their conclusions. The confidence level from one methodologically sound trial could outweigh the findings and conclusions from several weaker studies.
     
  • Lack of college-specific studies. In many cases, only general population studies or research on college-age individuals was available. As a result, effectiveness in campus situations was unknown. Where appropriate, approaches proven effective in a broader population including college students are included in the recommendations. In the absence of more specific studies, they may provide useful direction to program planners and suggest areas where more focused research is needed.
     
  • Lack of setting-specific studies. Colleges and universities differ substantially in parameters such as size, average age, composition of the student body, geographic location, and whether they are public or private institutions, offer 2- or 4-year programs, and provide extensive on-campus student housing. Although such differences may be highly pertinent to the effectiveness of specific alcohol interventions, virtually no existing research addresses the impact of setting-specific factors on program outcomes.

The following section of the report presents the Panel’s top recommendations for colleges and universities and researchers in four major areas: environmental intervention approaches; individual- and group-focused approaches; comprehensive campus and community approaches; and program implementation. A summary of relevant research findings introduces and provides the context for each set of recommendations. For more detailed information on these approaches and the literature reviewed, please refer to the original papers listed in the References section of this report.

 

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Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005


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