Table 1

Methodological steps to complete the realist review (adapted from Molnar et al 60)

1Clarifying the initial programme theorySearch for initial theories and then consult with experts
2Search strategySearch electronic databases using keywords and Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms
3Select and appraise documents
  • Use inclusion and exclusion criteria to screen for relevant abstracts, articles and reports

  • Retrieve full-text of articles and reports

4Extract data
  • Use standardised tool to extract relevant data

  • Search reference lists by hand for additional potentially relevant articles and reports

5Analysis and synthesis process
  • Analyse data for content and outcome patterns and synthesise mechanisms

  • NB: Realist reviews follow an iterative search process, so revise Step 2 (ie, search strategy) if relevant

6Present and disseminate revised programme theoryPresent and refine revised theoretical findings with relevant stakeholders and experts