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Table 1 Four-stage approach to the realist evaluation of communities of practice

From: A realist evaluation of the role of communities of practice in changing healthcare practice

Stage Activities Analysis Purpose
1. Theory • Systematic review of the literature
• Semi-structured interviews with sponsors and facilitators of CoPs
• Formulate CMO configurations
• Qualitative -- Identify themes and categorise as outcomes, mechanisms, and contextual factors
• Formulate potential CMO configurations
Provide the theoretical basis for the realist evaluation
2. Hypotheses generation • Generate hypotheses based on CMO configurations Rephrase CMO configurations into hypotheses Formulate hypotheses to be tested during stage three
3. Observation • Online survey of CoP members Quantitative --
• Identify CMO configurations that occur with regularity
• Social Network Analysis
Test and accept, reject, or modify hypotheses
Examine structure of professional and social relationships and flow of information and knowledge within the CoP
4. Program specification • Review analysis from stage three Refine theorised CMO configurations based on testing of hypotheses Specify CMO configurations that explain how, when and why CoPs improve healthcare practice