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Research Methods in Nursing


QUALitative research "is best suited for research aimed at rich description or in-depth understanding of a phenomenon, rather than determining causality; it is particularly useful in understanding the relevance of contextual features in the expression of the phenomenon. Qualitative approaches are most often chosen when little is known about a topic or when new perspectives are needed; other functions of qualitative approaches include generating hypotheses, refining theory, providing illustrative examples, creating taxonomies, and generating items for instrument development.

Relying primarily on inductive rather than deductive processes, qualitative studies generally share several “ground-up” features that differentiate them from “top-down” quantitative research. These features are driven by two central tenets: an orientation to cases rather than variables, as well as a preference for emergent rather than fixed designs."

More Information from Encyclopedia of Nursing Research

Four types of qualitative research design often applied to nursing research are:

  • Phenomenology - the study of human life experiences and how they appear in human consciousness
  • Grounded Theory - seeks to explain variations in social interactional and social structural problems and processes
  • Ethnography - As a research process, ethnography is a comparative method for investigating patterns of human behavior and cognition through observations and interactions in natural settings
  • Narrative Inquiry - the analysis of meaning in context through interpretation of persons' life experiences

For more details, look up these research designs in:

Encyclopedia of Nursing Research

Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research


QUANtitative research "consists of the collection, tabulation, summarization, and analysis of numerical data for the purpose of answering research questions or hypotheses. The term quantitative research is of recent origin and is distinguished from qualitative research in design, process, and the use of quantification techniques to measure and analyze the data. The vast majority of all nursing studies can be classified as quantitative.

Quantitative research uses statistical methodology at every stage in the research process. At the inception of a research project, when the research questions are formulated, thought must be given to how the research variables are to be quantified, defined, measured, and analyzed. Study subjects are often selected for a research project through the statistical method of random sampling, which promotes an unbiased representation of the target population among the sample from whom generalizations will be made. Statistical methods are used to summarize study data, to determine sampling error, and in studies in which hypotheses are tested, to analyze whether results obtained exceed those that could be attributed to sampling error (chance) alone."

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Quantitative Research Design can be Non-Experimental (Descriptive or Correlational) or Experimental (including Quasi-Experimental).


"Observational designs are nonexperimental, quantitative designs. In contrast to experimental designs in which the investigator manipulates the independent variable and observes its effect, the investigator conducting observational research observes both the independent and dependent variables. In observational studies, variation in the independent variable may be due to genetic endowment, self-selection, or occupational or environmental exposures."

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"Correlational research examines the relationships between variables, but unlike experimental or quasi-experimental studies, correlational studies lack active manipulation of the independent variable(s). Therefore, postulation of relationships among study variables in causal terms is risky. Discussion of associations in correlational studies, however, sometimes gives an indication of how likely it is that a cause-and-effect relationship might exist."

More Information from Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research


"Quasi-experimental research is similar to experimental research in that there is manipulation of an independent variable. It differs from experimental research because there is no control group, no random selection, no random assignment, and/or no active manipulation. Quasi-experimental research is a useful way to test causality in settings when it is impossible or unethical to randomly assign subjects to treatment and control groups or to withhold treatment from some subjects."

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More Information from Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research


Experimental research "involves manipulation of the principal independent variable, i.e., the actual administration of treatments or interventions that comprise the categories of the independent variable. An investigation is made of the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable.

A true experiment is characterized by random assignment of individual subjects to the treatment conditions and a high degree of control over unwanted influence of extraneous variables and other factors that could bias the results of the study."

More Information from Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research

"True experiments have the potential to provide strong evidence about the hypothesized causal relationship between independent and dependent variables. Experiments are characterized by manipulation, control, and randomization. The quality of experiments depends on the validity of their design."

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"Mixed methods research is a term associated with research that uses a combination of methods that are usually identified with qualitative research and methods that are usually identified with quantitative research. It should not be confused with the terms mixed models or mixed effects that are used in other contexts such as the analysis of variance.

It is important to understand that the use of a mixed methods approach does not make research better or more valid than the use of either a qualitative or a quantitative approach."

More Information from Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research


"In nursing research, triangulation refers to the use of multiple sources to validate findings by the nursing researcher. It involves the combination of both quantitative and qualitative research methods within a single study."

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