Using exploratory factor analysis to define levels of ontology in critical realism
evidence and practice    

Using exploratory factor analysis to define levels of ontology in critical realism

Anthony Summers Nurse practitioner, lecturer, Nursing, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia

Background Critical realism is often used in mixed-methods research. There are three domains of ontology in critical realism: the empirical, the actual and the real. Exploratory factor analysis is a statistical method used to identify patterns in datasets.

Aim To demonstrate how exploratory factor analysis can assist in defining the domains of ontology in critical realism.

Discussion The different elements of exploratory factor analysis enable researchers to define each domain of ontology in critical realism. The data related to the different factors in the exploratory factor analysis equate to the domain of the empirical. The bonds that link these factors in the empirical are their theoretical link to the real. The strength of these links is determined by the exploratory factor analysis and are the pathways in the actual linking the real to the empirical.

Conclusion Combining all these elements enables researchers to define a theory, as seen by the experiences and influences on that theory.

Implications for practice Exploring people’s experiences and then combining them into a theory using critical realism and exploratory factor analysis enables researchers to determine the strength of the relationship between the theory and the experiences.

Nurse Researcher. 28, 2, 38-41. doi: 10.7748/nr.2020.e1717


Peer review

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

Conflict of interest

None declared


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