This article, written by Ray Pawson and Ana Manzano-Santaella analyses recent realist evaluations in order to highlight potential weaknesses and how these may be overcome and in doing so clarify its key strategies and purpose.
"There is no such thing as the perfect inquiry, realist or otherwise. The case studies that follow are chosen to represent examples of common drawbacks, the difficulties that many authors have faced in trying to render realist principles into realist practice. Accordingly, the case studies are grouped to investigate three shortcomings: i) absence of an explanatory focus; ii) working in one data medium method rather than being multi-method; iii) failure to investigate contexts, mechanisms and outcomes in configuration. Note finally that we have investigated each case only against specific published outputs and our diagnosis, here apart, fails to mention one of the biggest drawback of all to realist ambitions, namely the journal requirements in many a field to publish in three or four thousand words. Little wonder that realist contributions fail to find room for all that occurs within the black box and in the contextual surrounds of an intervention." (Pawson & Manzano-Santaella, 2012)