Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Exploratory Factor Analysis: What is the Purpose?

Researchers often get confused when it comes to use of Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Exploratory Factor Analysis for their analysis. In this article, I will try to help you understand the difference between Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Exploratory Factor Analysis.
Exploratory Factor Analysis, also called EFA, is a statistical technique that helps you identify the underlying factor structure for a set of variables. In other words, EFA tells you how many factors exists within a set of variables and also gives you information about the factor loading of each variable on the each factor. Exploratory Factor Analysis is an exploratory (or theory-generating) procedure as the variables are free to load on all factors.
Confirmatory Factor Analysis, also called CFA, is a statistical technique that helps you test an exact factor model that you derive from theory, in other words, CFA is a theory-testing method. In Confirmatory Factor Analysis the variables are forced to load only on the specified factors (as specified by you) and then we examine the fit of the specified model.
Exploratory Factor Analysis can be performed using major statistical packages such as R, SPSS, SAS etc. On the other hand, Confirmatory Factor Analysis can be performed using MPlus, AMOS etc.

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