Postpositivist critical realism: philosophy, methodology and method for nursing research
Evidence and practice    

Postpositivist critical realism: philosophy, methodology and method for nursing research

Gemma Sinead Ryan Lecturer in nursing, Open University, Milton Keynes, England

Background Healthcare research acknowledges a range of paradigms, including postpositivism and critical realist methodologies. However, there are few examples of such studies, which may discourage nurses from considering it to be a viable option.

Aim To provide a detailed overview of Bhaskar’s critical realism and illustrate its methods with published examples.

Discussion Bhaskar’s critical realist methodology is explained and three main research methods are illustrated: critical realist evaluation, action research and ethnography.

Conclusion Postpositivism negotiates some of the conflict and differences between positivism and interpretivism. It offers a variety of methodological choices for nurses who do not wish to align themselves only with facts, cause and effect, proving hypotheses, or the perspectives and experiences of participants.

Implications for practice Researchers can use Bhaskar’s critical realist principles to study complex and open systems, such as those of teams and organisations, public health interventions, and social situations, but particularly the complexities of nursing practice, service delivery and service design.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1598

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Ryan G (2019) Postpositivist critical realism: philosophy, methodology and method for nursing research. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1598

Published online: 20 June 2019

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