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What works and at what cost? It’s a question commonly asked by funders, policy makers and practitioners, seeking to make the best use of available resources. To make informed decisions, a sensible first step is to look at what may be learned from past experience and research. However, this may not be as straightforward as it seems.

On the face of it, there has been a proliferation of research, evaluations, articles, inquiries and reviews from which useful lessons might be drawn. Indeed, the sheer volume of material can make it difficult for users to remain up to date.

This paper provides a guide to identifying relevant research and reporting the best available evidence drawn from these studies. The steps outlined below are informed by systematic review processes, which are designed to distil relevant and reliable evidence from the plethora of existing research literature.

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