Ascertaining Causality in Theory-Based Evaluation

This paper from E. Jane Davidson explores the relative strengths and weaknesses of program theory as a tool for inferring causality.


It also "outlines a five-stage approach that makes increased use of inductively built program theories and takes more deliberate account of the varying levels of certainty that are required for evaluative conclusions." (Davidson 20040


  • Introduction
  • Testing Causal Mechanisms with Thoery-Based Evaluation
  • Hunting for Causal Mechanisms
  • Options of Inferring Causality
  • Causal Traciing: A Five-Stage Process
  • Conclusions
  • References


Davidson, E. J. (2000). Ascertaining causality in theory-based evaluation. In P. J. Rogers, T. A. Hasci, A. Petrosino, & T. A. Huebner (Eds.), Program theory in evaluation challenges and opportunities: New directions for evaluation, 87 (pp. 17-26). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Anonymous's picture
Alimatu Aziz

I am an upcoming Evaluator and at this point i want to know whether i need to learn all the theories or i can just stick to being a Realistic Evaluator?

Alice Macfarlan's picture
Alice Macfarlan

Good question. I think it's important to have a thorough grounding in a number of different evaluation approaches, so that you can put your preferred approach into context, and understand better about when and why it is appropriate (and when it isn't). In the role of an evaluator, you also may need to with different approaches that are dictated by the evaluation commissioner - or explain to them why you think using a different approach is more appropriate, and this calls for being across more than just one approach.

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