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Credible and Actionable Evidence

Credible and Actionable Evidence
The Foundation for Rigorous and Influential Evaluations

Second Edition
Edited by:

September 2014 | 352 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Addressing one of the most important and contentious issues challenging applied research and evaluation practice today—what constitutes credible and actionable evidence?—this volume offers a balanced and current context in which to analyze the long-debated quantitative-qualitative paradigms. In the Second Edition, the contributors, a veritable “who’s who” in evaluation, discuss the diversity and changing nature of credible and actionable evidence; offer authoritative guidance about using credible and actionable evidence; explain how to use it to provide rigorous and influential evaluations; and include lessons from their own applied research and evaluation to suggest ways to address the key issues and challenges. Reflecting the latest developments in the field and covering both experimental and non-experimental methods, the new edition includes revised and updated chapters, summaries of strengths and weaknesses across varied approaches, and contains diverse definitions of evidence. Also included are two new chapters on assessing credibility and synthesizing evidence for policy makers. This is a valuable resource for students and others interested in how to best study and evaluate programs, policies, organizations, and other initiatives designed to improve aspects of the human condition and societal well-being.  

Part I: Introduction
Stewart I. Donaldson
1. Examining the Backbone of Contemporary Evaluation Practice: Credible and Actionable Evidence
Christina A. Christie and Dreolin Fleischer
2. Social Inquiry Paradigms as a Frame for the Debate on Credible Evidence
Robin Lin Miller
3. How People Judge the Credibility of Information: Lessons for Evaluation From Cognitive and Information Sciences
Part II: Credible and Actionable Evidence: The Role of Randomized Experiments
Gary T. Henry
4. When Getting It Right Matters: The Struggle for Rigorous Evidence of Impact and to Increase Its Influence Continues
Leonard Bickman and Stephanie M. Reich
5. Randomized Controlled Trials: A Gold Standard or Gold Plated?
Michael Scriven
6. Demythologizing Causation and Evidence
Part III: Credible and Actionable Evidence: Perspectives From a Range of Evaluation Designs and Methods
Sharon F. Rallis
7. When and How Qualitative Methods Provide Credible and Actionable Evidence: Reasoning With Rigor, Probity, and Transparency
Sandra Mathison
8. Seeing Is Believing: Using Images as Evidence in Evaluation
Eleanor Chelimsky
9. Credibility, Policy Use, and the Evaluation Synthesis
Part IV: Credible and Actionable Evidence: General Perspectives
Jennifer C. Greene
10. How Evidence Earns Credibility in Evaluation
George Julnes and Debra Rog
11. Actionable Evidence in Context: Contextual Influences on Adequacy and Appropriateness of Method Choice in Evaluation
Thomas A. Schwandt
12. Credible Evidence of Effectiveness: Necessary but Not Sufficient
Melvin M. Mark
13. Credible and Actionable Evidence: A Framework, Overview, and Suggestions for Future Practice and Research

"Donaldson, Christie and Mark's thorough book on credible and actionable evidence provides a comprehensive overview of how thinking about this topic has evolved to its present state in the program evaluation community. There can never be a last word on the topic, but this is as good a current snapshot as one might find. I recommend it."

William R. Shadish, University of California, Merced

“The book is very well constructed in terms of building blocks to develop what the editors are addressing. The division into sections is a good example of strong organizational approach to a topic. The quality of the individual chapters is exemplary…[G]ood writing and solid expertise in compiling various aspects of the debate around research evaluation.” 

Audrey J. Penner, Holland College and University of Prince Edward Island

“A huge strength of the text is the discussion of research decisions within a social/cultural/political context. This is a critical conversation for students to have about applied research.”

Matthew J. Zagumny, Tennessee Technological University

"High quality papers on an important issue written by some of the top scholars in the field. A must read for those interested in the topic."

Ernie House
University of Colorado Boulder

Rigor generating credible evidence that influences decisions and action: that's the heady vision of an experimenting society. This book, bringing together evaluation's best thinkers and most astute practitioners, realistically explains why it's hard to achieve while inspirationally portraying how we can -- and sometimes do --get there.  A book for anyone interested in evaluations that make a difference.   

Michael Quinn Patton
Author of Utilization-Focused Evaluation

"'What is credible and actionable evidence?', and 'How can we provide it?' are challenging, but fundamental, issues in evaluation.  Experts across disciplines and perspectives have different views on the meaning and content of these concepts, and they often propose different strategies and methods for addressing these concerns.  Credible and Actionable Evidence makes an essential contribution to this discussion by providing a platform for experts to productively discuss these questions, in order to understand the nature of evidence and exploit possible solutions.  It is a great resource for anyone who is interested in enhancing the quality of evidence in their evaluation or applied research."

Huey T. Chen
Mercer University

Somewhat advanced for my undergraduate courses.

Humanities Fine Arts Dept, Front Range Community College
February 17, 2015
Key features



  • Covers experimental and nonexperimental methods with experts in their use critically appraising the credibility of evidence from these varied approaches
  • Reflects recent developments in the field with new and updated chapters, tables, and figures
  • Includes new chapters on key topics, including: How People Judge the Credibility of Information: Lessons for Evaluation from Cognitive and Information Sciences (chapter 3) and How Evidence Earns Credibility in Evaluation (chapter 10)
  • Includes new sections on Inaccurate Unit of Assignment and reporting RCTs, as well as expanded coverage of generalizability, ethical issues, bias and heterogeneity, newly utilized mega-trials, ITT and TOT (chapter 5)
  • Expands the focus on Credible Evidence of Effectiveness: Necessary But Not Sufficient (chapter 12)
  • Features new Section Overviews to help prepare readers for the material to come and to summarize and reinforce the main points in each chapter
  • Summarizes major contributions in the new volume with a model of factors that affect judgments of what is credible and actionable evidence



  • Offers authoritative statements about generating credible and actionable evidence and developing rigorous and influential evaluations from leading scholars across such fields as education, psychology, health and human services, public policy, and public administration
  • Provides summaries of strengths and weaknesses across varied approaches to gathering credible and actionable evidence
  • Includes a full chapter covering the major themes and the practical implications for how to best gather credible and actionable evidence in contemporary evaluation and evidence-based practice
  • Contains diverse perspectives on evidence so that readers can better understand and evaluate the landscape of this highly debated topic

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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