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framework, nursing research, ontology, philosophy, realism, realist, theory



  1. Clark, Alexander M. BA(Hons), PhD, RN
  2. Lissel, Sue L. MA
  3. Davis, Caroline PhD


Aim: To outline the main tenets of critical realism (CR), its use, and future application in nursing.


Background: Little work has been done to discuss how CR can be applied to nursing research.


Findings: The tenets of CR include recognition of reality independent of human perceptions, a generative view of causation in open systems, and a focus on explanations and methodological eclecticism using a postdisciplinary approach. Critical realism is useful for (1) understanding complex outcomes, (2) optimizing interventions, and (3) researching biopsychosocial pathways. Such questions are central to evidence-based practice, chronic disease management, and population health.


Conclusions: Critical realism is philosophically strong and potentially useful for nursing research.