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Realist evaluation is a species of theory-driven evaluation. It has, though, a particular view about the nature of theory that is rooted in a realist philosophy of science. Realist evaluation has a distinctive account of the nature of programs and how they work, of what is involved in explaining and understanding programs, of the research methods that are needed to understand the workings of programs, and of the proper products of evaluation research. Realist evaluations ask not, “What works?” or “Does this program work?” but ask instead, “What works for whom in what circumstances and in what respects, and how?” Realist evaluation embarks on this explanatory quest on the grounds that it is panacea phobic. Programs are products of the human imagination in negotiation. ...

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