Assessing evidence: formulating and testing propositions

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Purpose: To provide a process for describing and further assessing propositions, which are “proposals on best practice that have a solid evidence base but remain contested.”

Description: The development of propositions has two phases:

  • an initial phase, where “a small group of researchers and practitioners define a set of evidence-based insights and counterview for a particular topic (ie., a proposition)”; and,
  • a subsequent phase, where “a broader community of interest regularly reviews and refines the propositions to update the evidence, and include or remove propositions from the data set, keeping it as an open live document.”

“The development of propositions is therefore an attempt to improve on conventional passive reporting on information collected from interviews and literature reviews that are generally not used by the target audiences, because of their limited engagement during the discovery process.”

Propositions are “intended to inform design and investment decisions and improve implementation but also to structure debate and learning on effective practice.”

Each proposition is supported by:

  1. an explanation;
  2. a summary of the available evidence;
  3. examples “from sample projects that ground the proposition in context and practice”;
  4. design implications for new interventions;
  5. hypothesised consequences for the problem under consideration;
  6. a “summary of assumptions underpinning the proposition”; and,
  7. a “summary of counterviews and counterevidence to the proposition”.

Reference: Rodriguez, L., Maru, T., Walker, D., Ison, R., Wanjura, W., Kershaw, I. and Dixon, J. (2014). Learning from agricultural research for development in sub-Saharan Africa: development of evidence-based propositions to improve food security outcomes. In, B. Triomphe, A. Waters-Bayer, L. Klerkx, M. Schut, B. Cullen, G. Kamau and E. Le Borgne (Eds.), Innovation in smallholder farming in Africa: recent advances and recommendations, Proceedings of the International Workshop on Agricultural Innovation Systems in Africa (AISA), 29-31 May 2013, CIRAD: Nairobi, Kenya / Montpellier, France: pp. 37-43. (Online):

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Posted: November 2013
Last modified: August 2019