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Realist evaluation, at its core, focuses on developing explanations of the consequences of social actions that contribute to a better understanding of why, where, and for whom programs work or fail to work. To this end, realist evaluators place a great deal of emphasis on (a) identifying the mechanisms that produce observable program effects and (b) testing these mechanisms and the other contextual variables or individual characteristics, often referred to as moderators, that may have impacts on the effects that are observed. Realist evaluation stands as an alternative to the two most pervasive schools of thought around which evaluation practice frequently has been organized: logical positivism and social constructivism. Rather than focusing on the contrasting philosophies, however, in this entry we will delve into the ...

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