What is realism?

Realism is a term used to describe a wide range of philosophical, scientific and social science approaches and frameworks.  However, in the context of Realism Leeds, realism describes an approach to applied, empirical inquiry.  As such, realist research asks the question of “What works, for whom, in what circumstances and why?”.  Rather than seeking to describe a particular issue, or to understand a particular policy, intervention, social movement or social change out of context, realist approaches account for and engage with contextual factors which influence the outcomes of activities, providing  useable and useful evidence  and insight.

Realism, as a form of empirical research, involves:

  • Evaluation of policy and practice (realist evaluation)
  • Reviewing and bringing together existing evidence to test ideas (realist synthesis)
  • Using a wide range of different methods to explore and explain issues/problems (mixed methods research)

Network members have significant experience and expertise in evaluation, synthesis, mixed methods and methodological innovation.