empirical nursing theory



Rather, notice whether one concept or a few concepts really stand out as important whereas others seem less important, and consider why this is the case. • Assumptions: If the theory is tentative, assumptions form the underlying “taken-for-granted” truths on which the theory was developed, thus leaving open possible theoretic interpretations that can come from different sets of assumptions. When the concepts tend to be descriptive of more specific situations, they tend to be labeled as “middle-range” theories. How many concepts are there? Acton et al. Generally, the term description means that the statement projects what something is or the features of its character, whereas explanation suggests how or why it is. Because these types of concepts are so vast, creating meaning can result only in a broad understanding that omits detail and that may be misleading. Often purposes that are extensions of theory are linked to the concepts and structures of the theory by implicit assumptions. If you are a postdoctoral student, you may create conceptual meaning to resolve a dilemma that you encounter when moving through the research process. For example, the word cup may be used to represent several different kinds of objects or ideas. When creating conceptual meaning, you examine a range of applications for a word symbol, find what is common among all of the uses and what is different, and decide what elements of meaning are important for your purpose. Outside of the context of Hall’s theory, self-actualization is a purpose that is shared with other professions. explicit. that cannot be directly observed but that can be indirectly measured with the aid of laboratory instruments. One way to imagine various contexts is to place your exemplar cases in different contexts and ask the following: What would happen in a different situation? Nonverbal Communication 5. Purposes that are embedded within the structure of the theory are usually explicit. Your case might be the emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation of a person in a public space to preserve the life of that person. This type of measurement depends on more complex and less direct forms of instrumentation. As a result, the nursing literature contains varying definitions of theory, but this diversity serves to stimulate the further understanding and development of theory. Just because a theory might not totally fit your situation does not mean that it cannot be used to guide care. Concepts formed around objects such as a cup or properties such as temperature are examples of highly empiric concepts, because the object or property that represents the idea (i.e., the empiric indicator) can be directly experienced through the senses and confirmed by many different people. Thus, when choosing concepts, the role and context of nursing is important to the choice. Does it provide possibilities for empiric indicators that represent the phenomenon? When the composite behaviors and personal characteristics are built into an assessment tool, it is usually a more adequate indicator of the abstract concept than any one behavior taken alone. Criteria are succinct statements that describe essential characteristics and features that distinguish the concept as a recognizable entity and that differentiate this entity from other related ideas. These four patterns include: personal, empirical, ethical, and aesthetic knowing. If you create your own exemplar case, work with your ideas and revise your description until you are satisfied that the case fully represents your concept. A borderline case is found when the same word is used in a different context. Some elements will seem clear, some will depend on tentative interpretations, and some will remain unclear. Others are formed from experiences that are commonly recognized but inferred indirectly. Relatively Concepts that are alike may represent either one central idea that is fairly clear or several different images. theory. One purpose is to set boundaries or limits so that you do not become hopelessly lost in the process. However, there are many varieties of empiric knowledge to which these processes can also apply. without explaining it? Rather than random activity, anxiety may be accompanied by a deliberate quieting of behavior to conserve energy. It is important to clarify whether purposes are embedded in the theoretic structure or if they are reasonable extensions of the theory. For example, knowing what the theorist means as well as understanding the underlying assumptions about comfort that the theorist has made are important for judging whether the theory will be useful in your practice. Assess how general or specific the definitions are. Like our definition of theory, your definitions of any terms will reflect your beliefs. They are empiric because they are formed from perceptual encounters with the world as it is experienced, but they are abstract because they are mental images of that experience. It is often difficult to determine from a listing of key words the concepts that are basic to the theoretic structure and that comprise definitions and assumptions. The meanings that are conveyed reflect different assumptions about the phenomenon. Although the process of creating conceptual meaning provides a foundation for developing theory and is a logical starting point for theory development, it does not necessarily have to be accomplished first. Body Image 5. Some concepts are not appropriate as a focus for the process of creating conceptual meaning. Purposes outside of the context of the theory also suggest directions for the further development of the theory. Attempting to prematurely create specific meanings for abstract concepts may interfere with exploring a wide range of possibilities that lead to the discovery of richer or alternative meanings. A saucer or a spoon can be presented, and most observers in Western cultures would agree that these things are not cups. This definition does not address a specific kind of purpose for theory, and it does not suggest any particular method for developing theory. When you are creating conceptual meaning for a theory, you are giving meaning to the word symbols within the theory. For the purposes of describing a theory, research findings are not required to confirm the nature of relationship statements as descriptive, explanatory, or predictive. Ideas that the creator systematically develops on the basis of experience and observation can be considered as theory before formal testing occurs. Like the word theory, these terms are highly abstract and have many different meanings for different people and within the discipline of nursing. Social contexts within which experience and the values that grow out of experience occur provide important cultural meanings that influence the mental representations of that experience. Creating conceptual meaning is also a valuable process for learning critical thinking skills (Kramer, 1993). If the color red is placed in the context of traffic signs and symbols, what meaning does the color now convey? Creating conceptual meaning produces a tentative definition of the concept and a set of tentative criteria for determining whether the concept is meaningful in a particular situation. As you consider the organization and number of concepts, address qualitative features of the concepts as well. By comparing the differences between exemplar and contrary cases, you will begin to revise, add to, or delete from the tentative criteria that are emerging. The assessment of an abstract concept depends increasingly on indirect means. As concepts become more abstract, their observational qualities (i.e., their empiric indicators) become less concrete and less directly measurable. You may find narrower-scope purposes for individuals and families and broader-scope purposes for a community. In similar cultures, the meaning associated with word symbols is both common and unique. The challenge when conceptualizing and structuring empiric knowledge is to realize that, in nursing—regardless of what is studied—the focus is on human behavior and human responses which are, as Wright establishes in her quote, rather cloud-like. Visual images that represent concepts very well also highlight difficulties with expressing meaning linguistically. For example, if you choose to examine the concept of transition for daughters who must place their mothers in nursing homes, you will eventually come to examine the consequences of women’s caretaking within a society that devalues its elders and that disregards women’s work when caring for aging parents by not considering it to be real work. The imagery of music or poetry may be useful for the creation of conceptual meaning. When the object contains liquid, it can safely hold hot liquids. the extent to which you use various sources depend on your purposes. The object is capable of containing physical matter. Theory has common, everyday connotations that are apparent in phrases such as “I have a theory about that” or “My theory about x is… .” These usages imply that theory is an idea or feeling or that it explains something. However, it is more important as you create conceptual meaning to make choices that help to ensure the meaning that is created is useful to nurses as they manage human responses and help persons to move toward health. Nursing theory aims to describe, predict and explain the phenomenon of nursing (Chinn and Jacobs1978). Relatively empiric concepts are ideas that are formed from the direct observation of objects, properties, or events. Music and poetry can effectively convey meanings through rhythm, tones, lyrical or linguistic forms and metaphors, or musical moods that reflect experiences in life events with which nurses deal. Pain alleviation and restored self-care ability are examples of purpose that require clinical practice and suggest that nursing actions are part of the theory. The people who examine the object can then verify, “If this is not a cup, then nothing is.” To demonstrate the concept red (a property), a model case is more difficult. It may be useful to seek others’ opinions about the meaning of a concept, particularly if your direct experience with the concept is limited. Carper’s four fundamental patterns of knowing are defined as empirical, ethical, personal and aesthetic. Related cases usually share several criteria with the concept of interest, but one or more criteria will be particularly associated with the model cases to distinguish them from the related cases. Conceptual meaning conveys thoughts, feelings, and ideas that reflect the human experience to the fullest extent possible, which is not possible with a definition. As any one of these elements changes over time, the concept itself changes. Quality of life as a purpose would constitute an extension of the theory because the concept is not located within the structure of the theory. As you build on the scenario of an adult picking up an infant to represent mothering, you could include various circumstances, behaviors, motives, attitudes, and feelings that surround the act of picking up the infant. For the abstract concepts that are found in many nursing theories, specific definitions are difficult to formulate. What you call them is not essential to the process; what is important is the meaning that you derive from the conceptual exploration and the investigation. Trying out alternative words becomes part of the process itself. of treatment (i.e., their role), whereas clinical pharmacists might create criteria that would assist drug manufacturers with formulating pharmaceuticals that are more effective for alleviating fatigue. They may be similar in some respects, but they represent something that most observers would easily recognize as significantly different from the concept you are considering. Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology." When you consider your exemplar case being placed in several different social contexts, you create an avenue for perceiving important values and making deliberate choices about them. For example, consider the concept of judgment if you are a student taking an examination, a real estate agent assessing a home for sale, an official scoring a gymnastics meet, or a magistrate preparing to impose a sentence. These purposes can contribute to the achievement of practice purposes, or they may not be directly relevant to practice goals. The purpose for the person receiving care might be to recover and to provide responses that indicate how effective the system is for promoting recovery. Research findings change because human behavior is not static. Communication 3. For example, there probably would be considerable disagreement regarding whether what happens in a schoolroom, in a hospital, or in counseling can be considered mothering. For the concept of restlessness, calmness could be presented as a contrary case. Red as a word and as a color has become, in Western culture, a metaphoric symbol for communism, violence, passion, and anger. The opening quote from Norma Koltoff supports the imperative to carefully examine the meaning of a theory when it is used to guide nursing practice and knowledge development. Have you ever considered how bachelors and masters degree registered nurses add to their knowledge base? Without careful examination, care decisions guided by the theory will be less than effective, and research outcomes that are grounded in or that extend the theory will likely be flawed. Abstract concepts may also acquire additional meanings through gradual transfer into common language usage. 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