Doing Realist Research

Doing Realist Research
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Nick Emmel
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Bringing together leading theorists, researchers and policy makers with expertise in using realist methods, this book is a definitive guide to putting realist methodologies into practice.

Bringing together leading theorists, researchers and policy makers with expertise in using realist methods, this book is a definitive guide to putting realist methodologies into practice.

Not just an overview of the field, this book looks to extend current debates and apply realist methods to new and practical challenges in social research. Featuring practical, worked examples of how to turn theory into evidence, it empowers readers not just to understand realist methods, but to use them.

It will help readers:

- Negotiate the complexity of relational systems

- Understand the importance and relevance of cumulative theory

- Address concerns over data sources and quality

- Be flexible and creative in realist approaches   

- Produce useful evidence for policy.

Sophisticated and globally minded, this book is the perfect addition to the ongoing development and application of realist methods across evaluation, synthesis, and social research.  

Introduction: Doing realist evaluation, synthesis and research - Nick Emmel, Joanne Greenhalgh, Ana Manzano, Mark Monaghan, and Sonia Dalkin

Chapter 1: The middle range methodology of realist evaluation - Nick Tilley

Chapter 2: Making up mechanisms in realist research - Malcolm Williams

Realists need mechanisms, so what are they?

The epistemology and ontology of mechanisms

Measurement and evidence

Some mechanisms

Chapter 3: Understanding mechanisms in realist evaluation and research - Gill Westhorp

Constructs of mechanism

Mechanisms in evaluation

Open systems

Alternate constructs of mechanism

Powers and liabilities



Reasoning and resources

Multiple constructs of mechanism

Mechanisms and the context-mechanism relationship

Chapter 4: Making claims using realist methods - Brad Astbury

Historical context

Conducting realist evaluation: an illustration

The set-up

Enter middle-range theory

Tricks of the realist trade

Chapter 5: Theory and realist methods - Bruno Marchal, Guy Kegels and Sara Van Belle

Using realist evaluation in HPSR in low-resource settings

With which theory to start?

How to elicit the initial programme theory

Chapter 6: Researching complex large scale nested interventions - David Byrne

Large scale interventions

Defining boundaries

Traces of the conditions of a system

Chapter 7: Using realist approaches to explain the costs and cost-effectiveness of programmes - Rob Anderson, Rebecca Hardwick, Mark Pearson, and Richard Byng

What are realist evaluations?

What are economic evaluations?

How are they different from realist evaluation?

Measurement vs explanation/theory-building

Creating localised vs generalizable knowledge

What would more explanatory economic evaluation look like?

Programme theories of cost-effectiveness – a worked example

Refining the theories of cost-effectiveness

Chapter 8: Data gathering for realist reviews - Geoff Wong

Gathering data

Relevant data

Programme theory

Rigour, data ‘quality’ and more...

Chapter 9: Scoping and searching to support realist approaches - Andrew Booth, Judy Wright and Simon Briscoe

The "realist search" and synthesis

Complementary searching techniques

The role of the information specialist in supporting realist approaches

Elements of a “realist search”

Sources of programme theories

Chapter 10: Evidence from realist research, its influence and impact - Mark Monaghan and Annette Boaz

Impact debates

The emergence of the systematic review

Considering the emergence and reach of realist review

Some provisional lessons from and for realist review

Analysing impact

Chapter 11: Realist research, guidelines and the politics of evidence - Mike Kelly

EBM, clinical medicine and public health

Epistemic shifts

Developing the evidence base and guidelines in public health in practice

Guideline development

Realism and EBM meet realpolitik

Chapter 12: Realist memorabilia - Ray Pawson

The test of time

CMO revisited


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