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Service evaluation, audit and research: what is the difference?
  1. Alison Twycross1,
  2. Allison Shorten2
  1. 1Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London, UK
  2. 2Yale University School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Alison Twycross
    Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, London SE1 0AA, UK; alisontwycross{at}

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Knowing the difference between health service evaluation, audit and research can be tricky especially for the novice researcher. Put simply, nursing research involves finding the answers to questions about “what nurses should do to help patients,” audit examines “whether nurses are doing this, and if not, why not,”1 and service evaluation asks about “the effect of nursing care on patient experiences and outcomes.” In this paper, we aim to provide some tips to help guide you through the decision-making process as you begin to plan your evaluation, audit or research project. As a starting point box 1 provides key definitions for each type of project.

Box 1 Definitions of service evaluation, audit and research

▸ What is service evaluation?

Service evaluation seeks to assess how well a service is achieving its intended aims. It is undertaken to benefit the people using a particular healthcare service and is designed and conducted with the sole purpose of defining or judging the current service.2

The results of service evaluations are mostly used to generate information that can be used to inform local decision-making.

▸ What is (clinical) audit?

The English Department of Health3 states …

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