Nursing Research Renjith Augustine
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Introduction to Nursing ResearchUnit 1

At the conclusion of this unit, the learner will be able to:
  • Discuss the historical evolution of nursing research.
  • Explain the methods of acquiring knowledge.
  • Mention the steps in scientific method.
  • Define research and nursing research.
  • Enumerate the characteristics and purpose of research.
  • Identify the problems in nursing research.
  • Discuss the role of a nurse in Research process.
Research is a new world to many of you. A proper understanding of this world can contribute the delivery of quality of nursing care. This chapter provides a broad explanation of the world of nursing research. The word ‘research’ means Re-search i.e. ‘to search again’ and ‘to examine carefully’.
Research is a systematic study that indicates planning, organizing and persistence. The ultimate goal of research is the development of a research body of knowledge for a discipline or profession, such as nursing. Nursing research is also needed to generate knowledge about nursing education, nursing administration, health care services, and nursing roles. In this chapter, nursing research is defined as a scientific process that validates and refines existing knowledge and generates new knowledge that directly and indirectly influences nursing practice.
  • Nursing Research is defined as the systematic, objective process of analyzing phenomena of importance to nursing.
  • Empirical data is the data gathered through the senses.
  • Evidence-based practice means that nurses make a clinical decision based on research evidence.
  • Research utilization focuses on implementation of findings from specific research studies.
  • Informed consent means that the subject agrees to participate in the study.
  • Pilot study is the miniature trial version of the study before actual data are collected.
  • Data is the piece of information collected during the study.
We often think that research is new to the field of nursing. But it is not so. Reviewing the history of research helps to understand the current status and to plan for the future of nursing research. Long and interesting historical events have influenced the development of nursing research over the years. In the beginning, quantitative research was used and, later on, the qualitative research was introduced in order to get the holistic understanding of the nursing phenomena. The historical developments of the nursing research are the following
Florence Nightingale (1859)
The first historical development in nursing research is the work of Florence Nightingale. Her work is significant because it marked as the beginning of nursing research. Nightingale collected and analyzed the morbidity and mortality of the soldiers in the Crimean war. Her notes on nursing (1859) are described as her research activities.
Nursing Research (1900–1970)
  • The American Journal of Nursing was published in 1900
  • First doctoral program for nurses was launched in 1923
  • Nursing Research was published in 1952
  • International Journal of Nursing Studies was published in 1963
  • ANA Council of Nurse Researchers was established in 1970
Nursing Research (1970–2005)
  • First Nursing Diagnosis Conference was held in 1973
  • Western Journal of Nursing was first published in 1979
  • Annual Review of Nursing Research was first published in 1983
  • Agency for Health Care Policy and Research was established in 1989
  • Journal of Nursing Measurement was first published in 1993
  • Qualitative Health Research was first published in 1994
  • Evidence based Nursing was first published in 2004
Knowledge means an essential information acquired in a variety of ways, expected to be an accurate reflection of reality. The common methods of acquiring knowledge are:
It includes the truth or beliefs that are based on the customs and trends. Traditions can positively influence nursing practice because they were developed from effective past experiences.
A person with expertise and power, who is able to influence opinion and behavior. Students usually get knowledge from the instructors or authorities.
It is one of the most common methods of acquiring knowledge. Information borrowed from other disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, medicine, etc.
Trial and Error
This method is also used to acquire knowledge. However, it may be a time-consuming method. Mainly knowledge is acquired through trial and error.
Personal experience
It enables the nurse to gain skills and expertise by providing care to patients and families in clinical setting.
Role modeling
Knowledge is acquired by imitating the behavior of an expert, such as teachers or any professional.
It is an insight or understanding to the situation which cannot be explained logically.
It is the process of organizing the ideas in order to reach the conclusion.
Problem-solving is a method of gaining knowledge regarding a specific topic. It involves the systematic identification of a problem, determination of goals related to the problem, identification of the possible approaches to solve the problem, implementation of the approaches and evaluation of the goal achievement. We can compare the problem-solving with the steps in the nursing process.
“Research essentially is a problem-solving process, a systematic, intensive study directed towards full, scientific knowledge of the subject studied.”
Ruth M French (1968)
Steps in problem-solving method
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Scientific method is the systematic method to acquire knowledge. It finds out some order in which the things are related together. Scientific method implies an objective, logical and systematic method, i.e. a method free from personal bias or prejudice. It is self-corrective in nature.
Scientific methods are defined as controlled, systematic investigations that are rooted in objective reality and aimed to develop general knowledge about natural phenomena.
Characteristics of Scientific Method
  • Objectivity
  • Validity
  • Systematic process
  • Reliability
  • Testability
  • Based on empirical evidence
Steps in scientific method
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The word ‘research’ comes from the two words: ‘Re’ meaning ‘again and again’, and ‘search’ meaning ‘finding out something new’.
Research in nursing is a careful, critical, exhaustive investigation of a problem or to discover new fact or verifying the old facts through hypotheses testing.
“Research is a process of systematically searching for new facts and relationship.”
“Research is systematic inquiry that uses disciplined method to answer questions or solve problems.”
—Polit and T Beck
“Research is a careful inquiry or examination in seeking facts or principles, a diligent investigation to ascertain something.”
—Webster's New International Dictionary
“Research is considered to be the formal systematic intensive process of carrying on the scientific methods of analysis; it 7involves a more systematic structure of investigation, usually resulting in some sort of formal record of procedures and a report of results or conclusions.”
—CC Crawford
“Research essentially is a problem-solving process, a systematic, intensive study directed towards full scientific knowledge of subject studies.”
—Ruth M French
“Nursing research is systematic inquiry designed to develop knowledge about issues of importance to the nursing profession, including nursing practice, education, administration and informatics.”
—Polit and Beck
“Nursing research is a scientific process that validates and refines existing knowledge and generates new knowledge that directly and indirectly influences clinical nursing practice.”
—Burns and Grove
“Nursing research is a scientific, systematic and orderly process to find out solutions for problems concerning to nursing or generating and refining the nursing knowledge to improve quality of nursing care, nursing education and nursing administration.”
—SK Sharma
Research is a process of systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data and to find out the solution for the question.
  • N- Nurturing clients
  • U- Understanding clients with empathy
  • R- Reviewing clients' problems to select priority
  • S- Systematically planned nursing protocol
  • I-Interventions are based on rationale
  • N- Need for more nursing theories
  • G- Generalized research findings are applied
  • R- Rational way of thinking
  • E- Exploratory, evaluative and experimental
  • S- Survey is to search for facts
  • E- Empirical
  • 8A-Analysis of data
  • R- Review of literature is essential
  • C- Confirmed facts are communicated
  • H- High standard of nursing is assured
  • Good research is systematic
  • Good research is logical
  • Good research is empirical
  • Good research is replicable
  • Identification
    • To examine the phenomena about what is known and what is unknown
  • Description
    • To understand the nature of nursing phenomena and sometimes the relationship among these phenomena
  • Explanation
    • To explain the nature of relationship
  • Exploration
    • To explore the relationship about the phenomena and identify the extent of the relationship
  • Prediction and Control
    • Research helps to predict and control to produce the desired outcome
1. Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research
Quantitative Research
In this type of research, data is collected in numerical form and analyzed by using descriptive and inferential statistics. It involves analysis of numerical data (quantity).
Qualitative Research
In this type of research, data is collected in descriptive form and analyzed in words, pictures, diagrams or objects.
2. Applied Research and Basic Research
Applied Research
Applied research refers to scientific study and research that seeks to solve practical problems.
Basic Research
Basic research is designed to understand the underlying principles behind a human behavior.
3. Exploratory and Confirmatory
Exploratory research is research into the unknown.
Confirmatory research means you have a good idea what's going on next (i.e. you have a theory and the objective of the research is to find out if the theory is supported by the fact).
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  • Nursing research helps in improving the broad professional knowledge
  • It helps in providing evidence-based practice
  • It helps in improving high-quality nursing care based on theoretical knowledge
  • It helps in improvement in payment system in health care system
  • It helps in improvement in nursing procedure and nursing care
  • It helps in development of specialized area in nursing service
  • It helps in research utilization, i.e. theory into practice
  • It helps in planning nursing care.
The common problems in conducting nursing research are:
  1. Research characteristics:
    Lack of research design application
    Problems in sample selection
    Problems in data collection method
    Problems in data analysis
  2. Nurses' characteristics:
    Lack of skill of the nurses
  3. Organizational characteristics:
    Lack of support from the organization
    Lack of qualified supervisors
    Lack of proper guidance
  4. Characteristics of nursing profession:
    Non-relevance of the problem
The roles of a nurse are as follows:
  1. Principal investigator
  2. Member of the research team
  3. Identifier of the research problem
  4. Evaluator of the research finding
  5. User of the research finding
  6. As a client advocate during the studies
  7. As a subject in studies
Principal investigator
Nurse can act as a principal investigator in scientific investigations. To be a principal investigator, a special research preparation is necessary.
Member of the research team
Nurse can serve as a member of a research team. Nurse may act as a data collector or the person who administers the experimental intervention of the study.
Identifier of the research problem
Nurse can identify the research problem or the problems which are relevant to the nursing profession
Evaluator of the research finding
A nurse researcher can evaluate what are the research findings and, based on the finding or evidence, she can practice.
Uses of the research finding
The primary goal of the research finding is better patient care. After evaluating the research finding, nurses should use relevant finding in their practice.
As a client advocate during the studies
One of the most important responsibilities of the nurse is to act as a client advocate in research study. This involves making sure that the ethical aspects of the research are upheld.
As a subject in studies
Nurses may act as a subject or participant in the research study. Sometimes, the study is conducted in the nurses or some nurses are involved in the long-term survey program, i.e. nurses are an inevitable part of the research process.
1. Discuss the importance and purpose of nursing research.
(MSc 2007)
2. Define nursing research. Discuss the characteristics.
(MSc 2009)
3. Discuss the problems in nursing research.
(MSc 2007)
4. Discuss the history of nursing research.
(MSc 2006)