This is the consensual starting point for Ray Pawson's latest foray into the world of evaluative research. But this is social science after all and harmony prevails only in the first chapter. Thereafter, Pawson presents a devastating critique of the dominant approach to systematic review - namely the 'meta-analytic' approach as sponsored by the Cochrane and Campbell collaborations. In its place is commended an approach that he terms 'realist synthesis'. On this vision, the real purpose of systematic review is better to understand programme theory, so that policies can be properly targeted and developed to counter an ever-changing landscape of social problems.
The book will be essential reading for all those who loved (or loathed) the arguments developed in Realistic Evaluation (Sage, 1997). It offers a complete blueprint for research synthesis, supported by detailed illustrations and worked examples from across the policy waterfront. It will be of especial interest to policy-makers, practitioners, researchers and students working in health, education, employment, social care, criminal justice, regeneration and welfare.