Realist evaluation - promise, problems and practicalities

Peter O'Halloran, Samuel Porter, Angela Higgins, Tracey McConnell, Frances Burns, Jennifer McGaughey

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Realist evaluation is an innovative, multi-method approach to evaluating the effectiveness of complex health care interventions that is having an increasing impact on the research community. Drawing on their experience doing four realist evaluations in diverse areas of healthcare, the authors offer a comprehensive overview and critique of essential theory and practice. The first paper (Realist review and realist evaluation: an introduction) introduces the main components of the approach and shows how realist review can support realist evaluation. The second paper (Concepts and methodology for realist evaluation: help or hindrance?) provides further detail on the key concepts, shows how they can be operationalised, and discusses the advantages and difficulties of using these ideas. Following these two papers introducing and illustrating the major concepts, the third paper (Realist Evaluation: a critical realist critique) takes a step back to re-consider realist evaluation in relation to its critical realist roots, asking whether it leads to evaluators abandoning the attempt to understand (and if necessary challenge) the underlying values of health care interventions and contenting themselves merely with explicating the factors that help or hinder implementation. The fourth and final paper (Data analysis and theory development in realist evaluation) plunges back into the tangled undergrowth of multiple-method data collection and shows how disparate forms of data can be synthesised for theory development, and the results presented in a form that is useful to practitioners and policy-makers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventRCN 2013 International Nursing Research Conference - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Mar 201322 Mar 2013


ConferenceRCN 2013 International Nursing Research Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Realist evaluation


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