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Theorising the evidence on discretionary decision making: alternative perspectives

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Elaine Campbell


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recent years, a diversity of critical paradigms of evaluation research have been proposed, developed and implemented by both academic and professional evaluators. At the heart of this 'Kuhnian revolution' lies a questioning of the ontological, epistemological and methodological premises of quasi-experimental designs, and a commitment to insert 'theory' into evaluative research of the kind which underpins and informs evidence-based practice. This article adds to the growing number of case studies which not only challenge the hegemony of positivistic perspectives, but which demonstrate the merits of a sociologically informed approach to evaluation research. Two possible routes to evaluating the Prosecution and Diversion Policy of a southern police force area in the UK are outlined and discussed - one informed by positivistic evaluation; the other by structurationist principles. In the light of the evidence of policy ineffectiveness, the positivistic model has little to offer by way of explanation. By contrast, the theory-driven, structurationist approach provides rich insights into the socio-cultural, legal and organisational relations of 'policy-failure', and furnishes a radically different interpretation of discretionary decision-making processes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Campbell E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Evidence and Policy

Year: 2005

Volume: 1

Issue: 1

Pages: 33-60

ISSN (print): 1744-2656

ISSN (electronic): 1744-2656


DOI: 10.1332/1744264052703186


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