Evidence-based policy: A realist perspective

This book, written by Ray Pawson, provides a critique of the meta-analytic approach and argues that the realist synthesis is a better way of understanding program theory, therefore enabling properly targeted policies to address the constant evolution of social problems.

Pawson goes on to provide detailed guidance on realist synthesis, including a range of examples from across a variety of policy areas.


"In this important new book, Ray Pawson examines the recent spread of evidence-based policy-making across the Western world. Few major public initiatives are mounted these days in the absence of a sustained attempt to evaluate them. Programs are tried, tried, and tried again and researched, researched, and researched again. And yet it is often difficult to know which interventions, and which inquiries, will withstand the test of time. The evident solution, going by the name of evidence-based policy, is to take the longer view. Rather than relying on one-off studies, it is wiser to look to the 'weight of evidence'. Accordingly, it is now widely agreed the most useful data to support policy decisions will be culled from systematic reviews of all the existing research in particular policy domains." (Pawson, 2006)


  • Evidence-Based Policy
  • The Promise of Systematic Review
  • Realist Methodology
  • The Building Blocks of Evidence
  • Systematic Obfuscation
  • A Critical Analysis of the Meta-Analytic Approach
  • Realist Synthesis
  • New Protocols For Systematic Review
  • Reviewing Implementation Processes
  • Megan's Law
  • Reviewing Inner Mechanisms
  • Youth Mentoring
  • Reviewing Outer Contexts
  • Naming and Shaming
  • Conclusion
  • Flying `The Tattered Flag of Enlightenment'


Pawson, R. (2006). Evidence-based policy a realist perspective. London: SAGE. https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/evidence-based-policy/book227875#tabview=toc

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