An introduction to realist evaluation and synthesis for kidney research

Dominic M Taylor*, Ailish M S Nimmo, Barnaby Hole, GJ Melendez Torres

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Realist research describes a methodological approach which aims to explore how and why interventions work, for who, and under which circumstances. Rather than quantifying how well an intervention works under specific conditions, realist theory explores the function of interventions in detail, and specifically considers how the contexts in which interventional components are delivered influence the mechanisms that lead to outcomes. Realist methods can be applied to primary data (realist evaluation) or secondary data (realist synthesis). Although realist techniques are increasing being used in the evaluation of complex interventions, there are relatively few published studies in the field of kidney care. In this review, we outline the theory and principles behind realist methods through discussion of a published realist synthesis describing complex interventions promoting delivery of optimal chronic kidney disease care. We discuss other kidney studies that have used realist methodology, and situations where realist techniques could be applied to advance our understanding of how to best deliver care to patients with kidney disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-53
Number of pages8
JournalKidney International
Issue number1
Early online date5 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 International Society of Nephrology


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