• To gain an understanding of how exploratory factor analysis can link with critical realism
• To learn from a practical example of how the actual, empirical and real can be used in a mixed methods study
• To be able to articulate and link the different aspects of ontology to link theory to practice
Background Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) can link the levels of ontology in critical realism together as described in Summers (2020).
Aim To demonstrate how components of the actual can be defined by linking potential factors in the empirical to the theorised generative mechanisms in the real.
Discussion This article describes one part of a three-part sequential mixed-methods study that used EFA to describe how components of the actual were linked using factors in the empirical to the generative mechanisms in the real. The author theorised three generative mechanisms: the perceived impact of continuing professional development (CPD) on patient care, the motivations for undertaking CPD and the perceived barriers to CPD. He used EFA to test factors from the empirical against these generative mechanisms to identify linking components in the actual.
Conclusion This article shows how components of the actual can be defined using EFA. These components are multifactorial and many factors in the empirical are influenced by different generative mechanisms.
Implications for practice Being able to articulate and link the different aspects of ontology enables researchers to define theorised generative mechanisms and link theory to practice.
Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2021.e1759Peer review
This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated softwareCorrespondence
Summers A (2021) A practical example of exploratory factor analysis and critical realism. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2021.e1759
Published online: 29 January 2021
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