How do we synthesize diverse evidence about complicated and complex interventions? I think that the relatively new technique of realist synthesis offers considerable promise and there is growing attention to this by governments in the UK, Australia and Canada (and maybe elsewhere?). Realist synthesis (Pawson, 2006) is a form of theory driven, qualitative, systematic review of literature and evidence. It applies the same theoretical principles as realist evaluation (Pawson and Tilley, 1997), a research and evaluation framework which was developed to explain complicated and complex patterns of outcomes of policy initiatives. Realist synthesis samples a wide variety of literature to develop, refine and test theories about how, for whom and in what contexts policies and programs will be effective.
I’m going to attend a 2 day Master Class in Realist Synthesis by Dr Geoff Wong (University College London) in Adelaide , Australia Wednesday 24th & Thursday 25th February 2010. The course is being organised by Community Matters, an Adelaide-based consultancy company specialising in realist methodologies. (If you’re interested in the course, contact Dr Gill Westhorp Community Matters email@example.com ) I’ll post a report after the course.