Professor Gill Westhorp


Professorial Research Fellow

Gill leads the Realist Research Evaluation and Learning Initiative (RREALI).  The role of RREALI is to establish CDU as an Australasian centre for excellence in realist methodologies by developing realist methods, researching and enhancing the utility of realist methods, and enhancing the University’s research impact (RREALI business plan 2016-18).

Over the coming five years, the team seek to extend existing markets and build new markets for the University in evaluation and policy- and program-related research, by:   

  1. Developing realist research and evaluation methods and tools, including Realist Economic Evaluation;
  2. Developing evaluation and research in markets new to the university:
  3. Building the University’s capacity for high quality evaluation and high impact research;
  4. Developing a supportive environment for evidence-informed policy and programs by building capacity of partners and collaborators

Gill leads realist research and evaluation projects, provides professional development in evaluation and realist methods around the world, participates in research projects as a realist methodologist and mentors other researchers and evaluators in developing and undertaking realist designs. She was a member of the core teams who developed the quality and publication standards for realist synthesis (a method for synthesising existing research and evidence from a realist perspective) and for realist evaluation. 

Gill is also Director of Community Matters Pty Ltd, a consultancy firm specialising in realist research and evaluation methodologies; and an Associate in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University.  Much of her current work is in the international development, climate change, health, and community services sectors. 

Research Interests

  • Integration of principles of complexity theory within realist approaches
  • Development of realist meta-evaluation
  • Application of realist methods to reduce the unintended harms sometimes caused by social interventions
  • Understandings of and processes of empowerment in social interventions  

International Recognition

  • The Sage Research Methods Foundations (on line encyclopaedia). This is designed for beginners in research and appropriate for students and staff as well. - LINK

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Publications & Resources

Book Chapters

Tilley, N., & Westhorp, G (in press) Evaluation Methods. 10,000 word invited entry to the Sage Encyclopedia of Social Research Methods. Westhorp, G. (2018) Revisiting mechanisms in realist research and evaluation, in Emmel ND, Greenhalgh J, Manzano A, Monaghan M & Dalkin S (Eds.) (2018) Doing Realist Research. London, SAGE

Westhorp, G., Walker, B., & Rogers, P. (2016). Dealing with Complexity in a Realist Synthesis: Community Accountability and Empowerment Initiatives. In M. Bamberger, J. Vaessen & E. Raimondo (eds.), Dealing with complexity in development evaluation: a practical approach (pp. 385-405). USA: Sage Publications.

Shen, D., Lewis, K., Simpson, L., Madsen, D., Evans, L., Arney, F., & Westhorp, G. (2015). Families as enablers of change: the family by family programme in Australia. In S. Vincent (ed.), Early Intervention: Supporting And Strengthening Families (pp. 99-113). United Kingdom: Dunedin Academic Press.

Journal Articles

Westhorp, G., Stevens, K., & Rogers, P. (2016). Using realist action research for service redesign. Evaluation, 22(3), 361-379.

Van Belle, S., Wong, G., Westhorp, G., Pearson, M., Emmel, N., Manzano, A., & Marchal, B. (2016). Can ‘realist’ randomised controlled trials be genuinely realist? Trials.2016, 17, 313. DOI: 10.1186/s13063-016-1407-0. 

Wong, G., Westhorp, G., Manzano, A., Greenhalgh, J., Jagosh., J., & Greenhalgh, T. (2016).  RAMESES II reporting standards for realist evaluations.  BMC Medicine, 14, 96. DOI: 10.1186/s12916-016-0643-1

Reddy, S., Wakerman, J., Westhorp, G., & Herring, S. (2015). Evaluating impact of clinical guidelines using a realist evaluation framework. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice (Online), 21(6), 1114-1120. doi: 10.1111/jep.12482.

Goodridge, D., Westhorp, G., Rotter, T., Dobson, R., & Bath, B. (2015). Lean and leadership practices: development of an initial realist program theory. BMC Health Services Research, 15, 362‐377. doi: 10.1186/s12913-015-1030-x.

Greenhalgh, T., Wong, G., Jagosh, J., Greenhalgh, J., Manzano, A., Westhorp, G., & Pawson, R. (2015). Protocol - the RAMESES II study: developing guidance and reporting standards for realist evaluation. BMJ Open, 5, e008567. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008567.

Westhorp, G. (2013). Developing complexity consistent theory in a realist investigation. Evaluation, 19(4), 364–382. doi: 10.1177/1356389013505042.

Westhorp, G. (2012). Using complexity-consistent theory for evaluating complex systems. Evaluation, 18(4), 405– 420. doi: 10.1177/1356389012460963. 

Wong, G., Greenhalgh, T., Westhorp, G., Buckingham, J., & Pawson, R. (2012). RAMESES publication standards: realist syntheses. BMC Medicine, 11, 20. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-20.

Wong, G., Greenhalgh, T., Westhorp, G., & Pawson, R. (2012). Realist methods in medical education research: what are they and what can they contribute? Medical Education, 46(1), 89-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04045.x.

Greenhalgh, T., Wong, G., Westhorp, G., & Pawson, R. (2011). Protocol - realist and meta-narrative evidence synthesis: Evolving Standards (RAMESES). BMC Medical Research Methodology, 11, 115. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-11-115.

Conference Proceedings & Papers

Westhorp, G. (2013). Learning by Doing – Reflections on a Realist Synthesis. Presented at the Australasian Evaluation Society International Pre-Conference Workshops. Brisbane QLD, Australia.

Westhorp, G. (2013). Realist Synthesis – A How To Guide. 1 day pre-conference workshop presented at the Australasian Evaluation Society International Conference. Brisbane QLD, Australia.

Westhorp, G. (2009). Improving External Validity – a realist understanding of the role of context in theories of change.Presented at the American Evaluation Association Conference, 9-14 November 2009, Orlando, Florida.

Westhorp, G. (2009). Realist Synthesis: An unrealistically brief introduction. Presented at the Australasian Evaluation Society conference, 2 September 2009, Canberra ACT.

Westhorp, G. (2009). Understanding negative impacts of early intervention: realist methodologies.Presented at the Australasian Evaluation Society International Conference, 2 September 2009, Canberra ACT.

Research Reports

Westhorp, G. (2014). Realist Impact Evaluation – A Guidance Note. ODI/DFAT/Better Evaluation.

Westhorp, G., Walker, B., Rogers, P, Overbeeke, N., Ball, D., & Brice, G. (2014). Enhancing community accountability, empowerment and education outcomes in low and middle income countries: A realist review. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

Westhorp, G., Walker, B., & Rogers, P. (2012). Under what circumstances does enhancing community accountability and empowerment improve education outcomes, particularly for the poor? A Realist Synthesis (Protocol). London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

Training & Workshop Facilitation

Gill has provided training workshops in evaluation methods, realist evaluation and/or realist synthesis for:

  • Wahana Visi [World Vision] Indonesia, Kupang, Indonesia
  • University of Sydney, School of Nursing Research Week
  • Australasian Evaluation Society, Brisbane
  • James Cook University, Cairns
  • Master Class in Realist Evaluation for PhD candidates and supervisors, Wellington University, NZ
  • Open workshop through Community Matters, Adelaide
  • Evaluation of Lean in the Saskatchewan Health System, Canada
  • Australasian Evaluation Society (AES, Canberra
  • Centre for Remote Health (Flinders University/Charles Darwin University, Alice Springs
  • Charles Darwin University, NT 
  • Basque Institute of Competitiveness, Spain
  • Swiss Evaluation Society
  • Scotland Health Summer School in Evaluation
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Health Strategy and Policy Institute, Vietnam
  • AusAid/UNSW
  • Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
  • Scotland Health
  • Scottish Evaluation Network
  • ACT Health
  • University of Montreal
  • University of Vermont
  • Child Protection Training Network, Lowell, Massachusetts
  • European Evaluation Society
  • Institute for Health Improvement Research, UNSW
2009 - 2010
  • National Heart Foundation
  • Australasian Evaluation Society - National training series
2009 & 2011
  • Australasian Evaluation Society – New Zealand region
  • Economic and Social Research Council, National Centre for Research Methods, UK
Dr Gillian Westhorp


T: +61 8 8389 4590

Mount Torrens, SA



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