Discovering Nursing Research

Readings and Overview

Topic 1
About nursing research

Topic 2
Research and practice

Topic 3
Past to present

Topic 4
Quantitative and Qualitative





About nursing research and knowledge acquisition

   Objective 1. Define research and nursing research.

What is research? Research is a diligent and systematic inquiry undertaken to refine or validate existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.

What is nursing research? Nursing research is a scientific process that refines or validates existing knowledge and generates new knowledge that will directly or indirectly influence nursing practice. The ultimate goal of nursing research is to provide an empirical basis to guide nursing practice, what is referred to as EBP.

   Objective 2. Describe the ways of acquiring nursing knowledge (tradition, authority, borrowing, trial and error, personal experience, role modeling, intuition, reasoning, and research) that you use is your practice.

What is knowledge and how is it acquired in nursing?
Knowledge is essential information that should reflect reality and provide a direction for a person's actions. In nursing, knowledge directs the action of providing nursing care. Consequently, the knowledge must be credible and of high quality to direct nurses' actions that range broadly from providing comfort care to managing the administration of life-saving drugs and techniques.

Historically, nursing has acquired knowledge through traditions, authority, borrowing, trial and error, personal experience, role modeling, intuition, and reasoning. Although some of these methods of acquiring knowledge continue to be of use in nursing, in the past decade more emphasis has been placed on providing a sound research base for nursing practice. This is evident in the contents of nursing textbooks and in hospital policy and procedure.

What are the differences in types of knowledge acquisition?

  • Tradition - This represents knowledge based on truths and beliefs that come from customs and trends. An often-heard explanation for this type practice is "This is the way we have always done it." Think of a procedure in your clinical area where tradition might be the basis of practice.
  • Authority - Someone who is considered an authority in nursing may have published books or articles, may have an advanced education, or may be an expert clinician. Right here in the SON we have internationally recognized nursing authorities. These faculty are examples of those nurses recognized as authorities through their work:
    • Developing nursing theory - Dr. Merle Mishel developed the Theory of Uncertainty that has guided much nursing research in the care of adults and children experiencing acute and chronic illnesses.
    • Developing effective health promotion interventions - Dr. Joanne Harrell has developed school-based exercise programs for children to help combat the problems of inactivity and obesity which lead to heart disease.
    • Developing knowledge of caring for medically fragile infants - Dr. Diane Holditch-Davis conducts studies that focus on many aspects of better understanding the care and development of medically fragile infants.

  • Borrowing - This involves the use of knowledge from other disciplines to guide nursing practice. These disciplines include medicine, sociology, psychology, physiology, and education. Borrowing from another discipline works when the borrowed knowledge is integrated into nursing's body of knowledge
  • Trial and error - Using this approach implies that different solutions will be tried until the right one is found. This has the potential to be very detrimental when applied to providing nursing care. However, nurses engage in a certain amount of trial and error when we apply an approved intervention to the individual. We have policy and procedure to guide the insertion of a Foley catheter, but individual anatomy can result in trial and error during insertion.
  • Personal experience - Nurses gain knowledge and experience by seeing and doing. This method of knowledge acquisition is well recognized in nursing and has even provided the basis for a theory of how the nurse transitions from a novice to an expert clinician. The differences between reading about giving an injection, giving an injection to an orange or a classmate, and actually giving an injection to a real patient are vast. The first injection was a major task to be undertaken, but with experience we become quite knowledgeable about how to administer the least painful injection.
  • Role modeling - Watching and imitating the behaviors of the expert nurse is another way nurses gain knowledge. Many clinical orientation programs for nurses are based on the concept of role modeling.
  • Intuition - This is best described as having that "gut feeling" or "hunch" about something. Intuition is best used in nursing care as the impetus to do a more in-depth assessment.
  • Reasoning - This is the processing and organization of ideas to reach a conclusion. There are two types of reasoning;
    • Inductive - moving from the specific to the general; from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Theory development represents this type of reasoning in which different concepts are joined to make a whole.
    • Deductive - the opposite of inductive, moving from the general to the specific. We might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest; then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. Theory testing represents this type of reasoning. The relationships between the individual concepts in a theory are examined.
Week 1

Please post the online assignments to Bb no later than midnight Monday, August 27.  

Activity 1 What brings you back to school

In about two paragraphs, tell us who you are. Information to share can include nursing specialty, years in practice, reasons for returning for a BSN, future goals, where you live, family, pets, hobbies, and anything else you might want us to know about you.

Activity 2 - Evidence-based Practice
1. Discuss your thoughts about how practicing staff nurses do or do not gain access to research to improve practice?
2. Describe the extent to which nursing practice in your agency is influenced by research?
3. What are some of the barriers to EBP in your setting?
4. Describe a continuing education or staff development program you might design to help staff in your agency improve practice through research in a selected area. Would Rogers’ theory of research utilization be helpful to you in designing your program? How would it be helpful?

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