Applying and reporting relevance, richness, and rigour in realist evidence appraisals: Advancing key concepts in realist reviews

Sara Dada*, Sonia Dalkin, Brynne Gilmore, Rebecca Hunter, Ferdinand C. Mukumbang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


The realist review/synthesis has become an increasingly prominent methodological approach to evidence synthesis that can inform policy and practice. While there are publication standards and guidelines for the conduct of realist reviews, published reviews often provide minimal detail regarding how they have conducted some methodological steps. This includes selecting and appraising evidence sources, which are often considered for their ‘relevance, richness and rigour.’ In contrast to other review approaches, for example, narrative reviews and meta-analyses, the inclusion criteria and appraisal of evidence within realist reviews depend less on the study's methodological quality and more on its contribution to our understanding of generative causation, uncovered through the process of retroductive theorising. This research brief aims to discuss the current challenges and practices for appraising documents' relevance, richness and rigour and to provide pragmatic suggestions for how realist reviewers can put this into practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
JournalResearch Synthesis Methods
Issue number3
Early online date5 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

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