Reclaiming the term “theory-based”

Excited to discover a triple of 2024 publications that use the broader conception of theory-based evaluation that includes trials and quasi-experiments, as the term was introduced by Fitz-Gibbon and Morris (1975) and used by, e.g., Chen and Rossi (1980), Coryn et al., (2011), Weiss (1997), Funnell and Rogers, P. J. (2011), Chen (2015), and many others.

I hope the next Magenta Book update has a more nuanced approach that includes RCTs and QEDs under theory-based, alongside, e.g., QCA and uses of Bayes’ rule to reason about qual evidence.

The new:

Bonell, C., Melendez-Torres, G. J., & Warren, E. (2024). Realist trials and systematic reviews: Rigorous, useful evidence to inform health policy. Cambridge University Press.

Matta, C., Lindvall, J., & Ryve, A. (2024). The Mechanistic Rewards of Data and Theory Integration for Theory-Based Evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation, 45(1), 110–132.

Schmidt, R. (2024). A graphical method for causal program attribution in theory-based evaluation. Evaluation, online first.

Key older texts:

Chen, H.-T., & Rossi, P. H. (1980). The Multi-Goal, Theory-Driven Approach to Evaluation: A Model Linking Basic and Applied Social Science. Social Forces, 59, 106–122.

Chen, H.-T., & Rossi, P. H. (1983). Evaluating With Sense: The Theory-Driven Approach. Evaluation Review, 7(3), 283–302.

Chen, H. T. (2015). Practical program evaluation: Theory-driven evaluation and the integrated evaluation perspective (2nd edition). Sage Publications.

Coryn, C. L. S., Noakes, L. A., Westine, C. D., & SchrΓΆter, D. C. (2011). A systematic review of theory-driven evaluation practice from 1990 to 2009. American Journal of Evaluation, 32(2), 199–226.

Fitz-Gibbon, C. T., & Morris, L. L. (1975). Theory-based evaluation. Evaluation Comment, 5(1), 1–4. Reprinted in Fitz-Gibbon, C. T., & Morris, L. L. (1996). Theory-based evaluation. Evaluation Practice, 17(2), 177–184.

Funnell, S. C., Rogers, P. J. (2011). Purposeful Program Theory: Effective Use of Theories of Change and Logic Models. Jossey-Bass.

Weiss, C. H. (1997). How can theory-based evaluation make greater headway? Evaluation Review, 21(4), 501–524.