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Title: Critical realism : an alternative perspective on evaluation methodology
Author: Jennings, Peter Leonard
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 138X
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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The aim of this research was to explore the contribution of critical realist metatheory to evaluation. The principal contention is that adopting a critical relist perspective overcomes the propensity of conventional approaches to evaluation, both quantitative and qualitative, to focus on pre-determined performance measurement criteria. This research is based on comparative analysis of the methodologies and outcomes derived from conventional and critical realist evaluation. Evaluation grounded in critical realist metatheory embraces methodological pluralism, which underpins critical realism, and emphasises more thoughtful forms of data interpretation in empirical research. Making use of an exemplar, publicly funded, scheme providing grants to enterprises engaged in commercialising innovation, the research examines the role of common forms of data gathering and analysis, contrasted with particular forms of data interpretation based on abduction and retroduction. Intrinsic and extrinsic research methodologies are presented, not as polar opposites, but as complementary stances in gaining a rounded understanding of the scheme. Conventional approaches to evaluation are shown to act as limited forms of performance measurement, emphasising anticipated outcomes and predetermined criteria but offering little explanation and understanding. Critical realist evaluation is shown to broaden the scope of outcomes identified and deepen explanation and understanding, whilst simultaneously acknowledging the implications of fallibilism in developing multiple, plausible explanations. Explanation is enhanced through recognition of the inherent uncertainty of the social world, despite the dominance of notions of universal regularities. Recommendations for undertaking evaluation are given. The research helps fill an identifiable gap in current literature and debate on mechanisms and casual inference in social science. It provides a practical example of evaluation in the context of support interventions for innovation. No equivalent example is known to have been published previously.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council ; University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General)