REALIST REVIEWS

Realist reviews are conducted to answer research questions about how and why a program does or does not work by exploring the contexts and mechanisms that lead to captured evidence of outcomes. Realist reviews begin with a theory of change designed from program documentation, existing literature, or expert stakeholder experience. Realist reviews result in refined theories that influence future iteration of program design and implementation.

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STRENGTHS + WEAKNESSES

Realist Reviews

 

STRENGTHS

  • Theory-driven approach

  • Aims to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions in context

  • Answers questions about what intervention works, for whom, how, and in what circumstances?

WEAKNESSES

  • Understanding mechanisms is the core feature of realist review, but there is no consensus on a single definition

  • Synthesizing both quantitative and qualitative data can be challenging

  • Data analysis and synthesis is time intensive

  • Identifying context, mechanism, and outcome configurations can be challenging

REALIST REVIEWS:

Supporting Documents to Download

 

REALIST REVIEWS:
5-STEPS DOWNLOADABLE GUIDE

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REALIST REVIEWS:
THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS
(JGME PUBLICATION)

REALIST REVIEWS:
BRIEF HOW-TO GUIDE
(JGME PUBLICATION)

Business Plan

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Realist Reviews

 
Navigating in Woods

HOW-TO/REPORTING GUIDES

Pawson R. Evidence-Based Policy: A Realist Perspective. London, UK: Sage Publications; 2006.


Pawson R, Greenhalgh T, Harvey G, Walshe K. Realist review—a new method of systematic review designed for complex policy interventions. J Health Ser Res Policy. 2005;10(suppl 1):21-34. doi:10.1258/1355819054308530


The RAMESES Projects. Accessed March 30, 2022. https://www.ramesesproject.org/


Wong G, Westhorp G, Pawson R, Greenhalgh T. Realist synthesis: RAMESES training materials. Accessed March 30, 2022. https://www.ramesesproject.org/media/Realist_reviews_training_materials.pdf

Wong G, Greenhalgh T, Westhorp G, Buckingham J, Pawson R. RAMESES publication standards: realist syntheses. BMC Med. 2013;11:21. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-21

Doctor's Desk

MEDED SPECIFIC GUIDES

Wong G, Greenhalgh T, Westhorp G, Pawson R. Realist methods in medical education research: what are they and what can they contribute? Med Educ. 2012;46(1):89-96. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04045.x

Book of Laws

EXAMPLES OF REALIST REVIEWS

Ajjawi R, Kent F, Broadbent J, Tai J, Bearman M, Boud D. Feedback that works: a realist review of feedback interventions for written tasks [published online ahead of print March 2, 2021]. Studies Higher Educ. doi:10.1080/03075079.2021.1894115


Brennan N, Bryce M, Pearson M, Wong G, Cooper C, Archer J. Towards an understanding of how appraisal of doctors produces its effects: a realist review. Med Educ. 2017;51(10):1002-1013. doi:10.1111/medu.13348


Kent F, Hayes J, Glass S, Rees CE. Pre-registration interprofessional clinical education in the workplace: a realist review. Med Educ. 2017;51(9):903-917. doi:10.1111/medu.13346


Rees CE, Lee SL, Huang E, et al. Supervision training in healthcare: a realist synthesis. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2020;25(3):523-561. doi:10.1007/s10459-019-09937-x


Sholl S, Ajjawi R, Allbutt H, et al. Balancing health care education and patient care in the UK workplace: a realist synthesis. Med Educ. 2017;51(8):787-801. doi:10.1111/medu.13290

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT

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ROLA AJJAWI, PHD

Rola Ajjawi, PhD, is Associate Professor Education Research at the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning, Deakin University, Australia where she leads a program of research investigating clinical supervision, feedback and belonging. She draws from a range of methodological and theoretical perspectives to understand the hidden social, cultural and relational factors that influence becoming a healthcare professional.

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FIONA KENT, PHD

Fiona Kent, PhD, is the Director Collaborative Care and Work Integrated Learning in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia. She completed her Masters in Health Professional Education investigating patient perspectives of student led care and her PhD in interprofessional student education. Her work and research focuses on the development and evaluation of interprofessional curriculum.