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Doing Realist Research

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’This is a must-have text-book for researchers undertaking a Realist Synthesis or a Realist Evaluation study, particularly masters and doctoral students.’

Title: Doing Realist Research

Edited by: Nick Emmel, Joanne Greenhalgh, Ana Manzano, Mark Monaghan and Sonia Dalkin

Publisher: Sage

Reviewer: Kate Jack, PhD student and advanced virology nurse, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

What was it like?

Realist research is a methodology that enables researchers to uncover the social processes that lead to the outcomes observed. This methodology focuses on revealing what works for whom, in what circumstances and how. Developing the explanatory theories behind an intervention requires unpacking the contexts and mechanisms, which lead to the outcomes and this book provides a guide for doing this. Doing Realist Research is a clear, detailed and informative text and is the long-awaited accompaniment to existing key material on realist methodology.

What were the highlights?

The clear explanations of Programme Theories, Contexts and Mechanisms enable the novice realist researcher to understand the methodology and design their study effectively. There were a number of helpful hints presented, such as the online PubVenn tool that graphically represents the fruits of a literature search. Chapter 11 challenges the use of randomised controlled trials on the premise that health improvements generally require behaviour change, so understanding the mechanisms between action and outcome is pivotal when planning care and interventions.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The editors de-mystify realist research, which may help to expand its use in the field of health sciences and give confidence to researchers exploring which methodology to adopt. This clearly structured book has chapters that begin with a box explaining the forthcoming text, how it will help the reader and the key take home messages. An understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of research is however a pre-requisite, so readers may have to explore additional material.

Who should read it?

This is a must-have text-book for researchers undertaking a Realist Synthesis or a Realist Evaluation study, particularly masters and doctoral students. Also a recommended read for those using a different approach to their evaluation, so they can see what they are missing out on!

doing realist research

doing realist research


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