15 Jan, 16 | by Bob Phillips
There’s a not-so-new kid on the systematic review block that seeks to cogently and comprehensive look at if, why (or why not) an intervention ‘package’ works in practice. They are ‘realist reviews‘ which, in brief, take a slightly different idea to how things work than the standard medical researchers might.
The reviews aim to unpick the relationships between a programme of intervention (e.g. approaches to substance misusing parents of younger children), the mechanisms of action (e.g. how people think, act and believe stuff when they are approached by programme elements, the choices made), how they are contextual (e.g alter if you’re in or out of a house you can stay in), and the outcomes (e.g. school attendance, child growth, police involvement). They undertake this by following a structure similar to many systematic reviews; they define a clear question, seek widely for appropriate evidence, weigh the potential strengths and weaknesses of the evidence, synthesise it into an understanding of stuff and provide messages for using the research. The synthesis comes from a stated theory, often rough-cut, about how the intervention might work; what the mechanisms may be and how contexts may alter that.