Dr Sarah Morton


Sarah is internationally recognised for her work in developing innovative approaches to ensure that decision-makers have access to the best evidence for taking organisations, policies and practices forward. She has done this through:

  1. creating channels for getting research into the real world (at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships)
  2. broadening understanding of the interaction between research, policy and practice (through work with UNICEF, What Work Scotland and  other research); and
  3. working alongside organisations to use evidence for improving services for the families and communities they serve (with Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Starcatchers, The Scottish Book Trust, Shelter Scotland and others).

Sarah has pioneered a participatory approach to using contribution analysis to understand and achieve outcomes.


Photo by Malin Widstrand Photography

Sarah’s publications

Morton, S. & Cook, A. (2023) How Do You Know If You Are Making a Difference: A Practical Handbook for Public Service Organisations. Policy Press

With case studies from health, community, research, international development and social care, this book shows that with the right tools and techniques, public services can track their contribution to social change and become more efficient and effective.

Interrogating assumptions about the relationship between service providers and recipients: Learning from a new service for survivors of In Care Abuse (2023)

Ailsa Cook, Sarah Morton, Flora Henderson. Evaluation and Program Planning, Volume 97. Understanding the dynamic relationship between service providers and the people who use their services is key to effective evaluation. This paper presents a practical approach to embedded evaluation that can be used by services to interrogate assumptions about relationships. The approach includes a simple framework for developing theories of change that centres relational aspects of the change process. This framework is complemented by a structured approach to surfacing risks and assumptions. Using the example of the evaluation of Future Pathways, a new and ground breaking service provided to people who experienced abuse or neglect as children In Care in Scotland, the paper describes how this approach was used in practice.

Progressing research impact assessment: A ‘contributions’ approach (2015)

Sarah Morton. Evaluation, Volume 24, Issue 4, Pages 405–419

Developing a framework to evaluate knowledge into action interventions (2018)

Sarah Morton, Suzanne Wilson, Sheila Inglis, Karen Ritchie and Ann Wales. BMC Health Services Research, 2018, Volume 18, Number 1, Page 1

Evidence synthesis for knowledge exchange: balancing responsiveness and quality in providing evidence for policy and practice (2018)

Sarah Morton. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, Volume 14, Number 1, pp. 155-167(13). Policy Press

Qualities of knowledge brokers: reflections from practice (2013)

David Phipps and Sarah Morton. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, Volume 9, Number 2, pp. 255-265(11). Policy Press. (Please note paper is not open access)

Changing national policy on violence affecting children: An impact assessment of UNICEF and partners’ Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence affecting Children in Peru (2017)

Sarah Morton and Tabitha Casey. University of Edinburgh.

Getting evidence into action to tackle institutional child abuse (2017)

Sarah Morton. Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 74, Pages 111-114. (Please note paper is not open access)

Evaluating the Young Mothers’ Service using contribution analysis: lessons learned (2016)

Cara Blaisdell, Harriet Waugh, Sarah Morton and Marsha Scott, based on a project with Sarah Morton. The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Research Briefing 79.

Manifesto for Partnerships between Universities and Non-academics (2015)

Sarah Morton.

Evaluation Report: The Play Ground, A Starcatchers Project (2014)

Conducted by Starcatchers with the support of Sarah Morton.

Assessing research impact: A case study of participatory research (2013)

Sarah Morton and Jennie Flemming. Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Research Briefing 66.

The data on children’s wellbeing is misleading — here’s why (2019)

Opinion piece for Apolitical