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Realistic Evaluation
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Realistic Evaluation


June 1997 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Authors Ray Pawson and Nick Tilley show how program evaluation needs to be and can be bettered. The authors present a profound and highly readable critique of current evaluation practice introducing a manifesto- and handbook-fresh approach. This volume is devoted to articulating a new evaluation paradigm, which promises greater validity and utility for evaluation as a whole. Realistic Evaluation reflects the paradigmÆs foundation in scientific realist philosophy and its commitment to the idea that programs deal with real problems rather than mere social constructions. Its primary intention is to inform realistic developments in policyùmaking that benefit program participants and the public. Pawson and Tilley argue persuasively and passionately that scientific evaluation requires a careful blend of theory and method, quality and quantity, ambition and realism. The book offers a complete blueprint for evaluation activities, covering design to data collection and analysis to the accumulation of findings across programs and onto the realization of research into policy. Practical examples are used throughout this powerful volume and are grounded in the major fields of program evaluation. Realistic Evaluation is essential reading for all those involved in the evaluation process, especially researchers, scholars, and students in sociology, social policy, criminology, health, and education.

 
A History of Evaluation
 
Out with the Old
Weaknesses in Experimental Evaluation

 
 
In with the New
Introducing Scientific Realism

 
 
How To Design a Realistic Evaluation
 
How To Make Evaluations Cumulate
 
How To Construct Realistic Data
Utilizing Stakeholders' Knowledge

 
 
No Smoking without Firing Mechanisms
A `Realistic' Consultation

 
 
Evaluation, Policy and Practice
Realizing the Potential

 
 
The New Rules of Realistic Evaluation

`This book is a must for those engaged in the field, providing a fully illustrated text on evaluation with numerous examples from the criminal justice system. Unusually, it offers something for the academic, practitioner and student alike. I found Pawson and Tilley's latest work on evaluation an enjoyable and informative read. For myself their `realistic evaluation' clarified and formalised a jumbled set of ideas I had already been developing. Although not everyone will agree with the methodology proposed by the authors, this book is a valuable read as it will cause most of us at least to review our methodological stance' - International Journal of Police Science and Management

`This is an engaging book with a strong sense of voice and communicative task. The voice is sometimes strident, but always clear. Its communicative qualities are evident equally in its structure: lots of signposting for the reader within and across chapters' - Language Teaching Research

`This provocative, elegant and highly insightful book focuses on the effective incorporation of actual practice into the formulation of evaluation methodology. What a pleasure to read sentences like: "The research act involves "learning" a stakeholder's theories, formalizing them, and "teaching" them back to that informant who is then in a position to comment upon, clarify and further refine the key ideas". Pawson and Tilley have given us a wise, witty and persuasive account of how real practitioner experience might be encouraged to intrude on (and modify) researchers' concepts about program processes and outcomes. This holds important promise for achieving something that is devoutly to be wished: closer interaction among at least some researchers and some policy makers' - Eleanor Chelimsky, Past-President of the American Evaluation Association

`This is a sustained methodological argument by two wordly-wise social scientists. Unashamedly intellectual, theoretically ambitious yet with a clear but bounded conception of evaluation. It is articulate, occasionally eloquent and always iconoclastic, whilst eschewing "paradigm wars". The Pawson and Tilley "realist" call to arms threatens to take no prisoners among experimentalists, constructivists or pluralists. It is the kind of book that clarifies your thoughts, even when you disagree with everything they say' - Elliot Stern, The Tavistock Institute


The book provides a really useful insight into evaluation and will be of use and interest to most students on the perspectives on social research course. I recommend it highly but given the breadth of topics on the course it should be considered supplementary reading, rather than recommended.

Dr Jonathan Wistow
School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University
February 10, 2010

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