Sigrid HaunbergerEdgar Baumgartner

Impact Research in Social Work with Realistic Evaluation: Empirical Applications and Methodological Challenges.

A Systematic Review


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Social work actions are complex interventions which can produce different outcomes in different circumstances. The overriding question here is how to find criteria for effectiveness and which method of impact evaluation is to be used. In this article, we outline one promising approach, realistic evaluation, which seeks to establish what works, for whom, in what circumstances, in what respects, to what extent, and why. A systematic review was undertaken to find empirical studies regarding the effectiveness of realistic evaluation for social work practice and research. We searched eight electronic databases, 33 papers met our inclusion criteria. The paper concludes that realistic evaluation is not a panacea, but offers some interesting opportunities for designing (impact) evaluations in social work.

Realistic Evaluation, Systematic Review, Social Work, Impact Evaluation