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Editor's comment.

Rehabilitation research is firmly grounded in the scientific method and has been primarily empirical in nature. The scientific method has been described as consisting of the following five steps: (1) problem identification, (2) hypothesis formulation, (3) designing and conducting research, (4) hypothesis testing, and (5) interpretation (Christensen, 1988). Through the implementation of these five steps behavioral scientists attempt to describe, predict, and understand human behavior. When the scientific method is applied to rehabilitation the primary goal becomes to describe, predict, and understand how the construct of disability impacts and interacts with human behavior. When attempting to understand the impact of disability on human behavior the issue of causation becomes an important and complex issue. According to the scientific method four primary types of causation have been identified (Bolton & Parker, 1998; Rychlak, 1977). Material causes reflect the basic nature for the material in question. Efficient causes referrer to the energy of and resources behind events. Formal causes refer to the mental strategies that influence behavior in human encounters. Final causes relate to the initial motivations or influences that result in a person taking a particular course of action. One of the major problems associated with counseling and rehabilitation research is that very little research has been directed at uncovering final causes; instead, most research has been directed at identifying efficient causes of human behavior (Bolton & Parker, 1998; Howard, 1985).

A second major problem with rehabilitation research is that has been historically influenced by the medical and psychological model. According to the medical and psychological model, research tends to focus on the individual as the primary agent of behavior, affect, and cognition. Even with the significant move to adopt and embrace a more person x environment model, the emphasis still tends to focus on the individual or environmental factors very close to the individual. For example, it would not be unusual to see a study that examines the impact of a specific piece of assistive technology on an individual's ability to perform a certain task. If environmental factors were analyzed in the study they would most likely be directly related to the individual (i.e. family, home environment, school). Therefore, in this example the focus of the study is on both the individual and environmental factors that can be termed proximal, or residing close to the individual.

As editors of the Journal we would like to challenge researchers and educators in the area of rehabilitation to broaden their scope beyond just individual and proximal variables to include what can be termed contextual variables. Contextual variables are not directly related to the individual, but have significant indirect effects on an individual's behavior. Examples of contextual variables include broad variables such as policy, law, and attitude. We are not saying that rehabilitation researchers have not addressed these areas; instead we are saying we would like to see an increased emphasis on conducting research that examines how the broader contextual variables impact individuals with disability.

To achieve this goal we would encourage rehabilitation researchers to utilize a multidisciplinary approach to their research. It would also appear to be important for rehabilitation researchers to broaden their scope of reading to include other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and disability policy studies. Presenting scholarly paper at conferences or workshops related to these disciplines would also assist rehabilitation researchers in broadening their perspective and developing additional skills that could be incorporated into their own rehabilitation research. As rehabilitation scholars we should also welcome and encourage scholars from other disciplines to publish and present at our conferences and meetings and also submit to our professional journals.

--Dan Lustig and Dave Strauser


Bolton, B, & Parker, R.M. (1998). Research in rehabilitation counseling. In R.M. Parker & E.M. Szymanski (Eds.), Rehabilitation counseling: Basics and beyond (pp. 437-470). Austin: Pro-ed.

Christensen, L. (1988). Experimental methodology (4th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Howard, G.S. (1985). Can research in the human sciences become more relevant to practice? Journal of Counseling and Development, 63, 539-544.

Rychlak, J. (1977). The psychology of rigorous humanism. New York: Wiley.
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Article Details
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Author:Strauser, Dave
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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