Descriptive Research In Nursing

Afza.Malik GDA

Nursing Research and Descriptive Study

Descriptive Research In Nursing

Descriptive Research,Pioneers of Nursing Work,Training of Descriptive Studies ,Circumstances And Use of Descriptive Methodology ,Participation by Nursing Leaders, Utilization of Descriptive Studies,Financial Support In Early Days,Descriptive Studies and Surveys,Response of Nursing Organizations.

Descriptive Research

    Descriptive research encompasses a broad range of research activity in nursing and has comprised the majority of nursing studies. Early research efforts were focused on descriptive epidemiological studies. 

Pioneers of Nursing Work

    Nightingale's pioneering work is a well-known example of this type of research. Well schooled in mathematics and statistics, Nightingale created elaborate charts demonstrating morbidity and mortality trends of soldiers during and after the Crimean War. 

    Her detailed record keeping and graphic representation of these data convinced officials of the need to improve sanitary conditions for soldiers, which drastically reduced mortality rates (Cohen, LB,1984). 

    The progress in descriptive research activity in nursing has been influenced by several events and movements over the past several decades: advanced degree education in nursing, philosophical debate about the role of nursing and nursing research in the scientific community, establishment of centers for nursing research, and the formation of an agenda for knowledge development in nursing.

Training of Descriptive Studies 

    With the help of federal traineeship money, the earliest doctor ally prepared nurses obtained degrees in basic science programs. The adoption and rejection of the logical positivist view of science helped clarify linkages between philosophy, theory, and method. 

    At one extreme, nurse scientists and theorists argued that the future of nursing knowledge development lay in empirical studies that allowed for repeated observational statements under a variety of conditions. 

    It was believed that one ultimate truth could be found after repeated objective observations, which would eventually lead to discovery of universal laws.

Circumstances And Use of Descriptive Methodology 

    Critics of the logical empiricist approach argued that truth is influenced by history, context, and a chosen methodology and is constantly in a state of flux. What is humanly unobservable one day may be observable with the help of technological innovation another day. 

    Although logical positivism is no longer espoused in nursing theory and science, its role was crucial in initiating dialogue about what nursing knowledge is and how research in nursing should be advanced. 

    These dialogues have helped swing the pendulum from evaluating experimental research as the gold standard in nursing to recognizing the important role of descriptive and exploratory research.

Participation by Nursing Leaders

    Over the years, nursing leaders have struggled to establish which approach to knowledge development is appropriate and necessary for nursing, Dickoff , James, and Wiedenbach's (1968) four levels of theory for nursing included the most basic type, factor isolating theory, as the product of descriptive studies, with higher level theories built on the necessary basis of this first level of theory. 

    Stevenson (1990) depicted a stepwise conceptualization of research in nursing, with exploratory research at the bottom and utilization in practice at the top. 

    Descriptive research was thought to build on exploratory research findings and to provide a foundation of support for intervention studies, with the ultimate goal of utilizing research findings in practice. 

    NR Reynolds, Timmerman, Anderson, and Stevenson (1992) encouraged nurse researchers to employ meta-analysis techniques to descriptive research. Meta-analysis is a useful statistical tool that synthesizes extant nursing research, but it has largely been applied only to experimental studies. 

    Application of this technique to descriptive studies can help determine when a phenomenon is ready for resting with intervention studies.

Utilization of Descriptive Studies

    Descriptive studies often are used when little research has been done in an area, to clarify and define new concepts or phenomena, to increase understanding of a phenomenon from another experiential perspective, or to obtain a fresh perspective on a well-researched topic. 

    Also, the formulation and testing of measurement tools (eg, to measure depression, anxiety, or quality of life) employ descriptive research techniques. 

    The development and refinement of these tools will continue, with increasing emphasis on outcomes research as nurses are required to demonstrate how their interventions make a difference for their patients.

Financial Support In Early Days

    Public and private funding of nursing research has allowed for an expansion of nursing knowledge based in research. Of the many studies funded by National Institute of Nursing Research, Sigma Theta Tau, and private foundations, descriptive research continues to command a large portion of research dollars. 

    Descriptive research can employ quantitative or qualitative (including naturalistic) methodologies. Quantitative descriptive methodologies include surveys, measurement tools, chart or record reviews, physiological measurements, metaanalyses, and secondary data analyses. 

    Qualitative descriptive methodologies include interviews, focus groups, content analyses, reviews of literature, observational studies, case studies, life histories, grounded theory studies, concept analyses, ethnographic studies, and phenomenological studies. Many qualitative methodologies employ exploratory as well as descriptive techniques.

Descriptive Studies and Surveys

    A large portion of descriptive research involves the use of surveys or measurement tools, physiological measurements, and interviews. 

    Other naturalistic or qualitative methodologies (eg, ethnography, grounded theory, phenomenology) have become more available to nurse researchers in the recent past and continue to add to the descriptive research knowledge base in nursing.

Response of Nursing Organizations 

    Many nursing organizations and associations have delineated priorities for a nursing research agenda that include clarifying philosophical underpinnings of holism, research on care and caring.

    Health promotion, disease prevention and wellness, development of knowledge about the family and social support networks, and research on minority groups and culturally different views of health and illness. 

    Adding to nursing's knowledge base in these areas will require using descriptive research along with other research methodologies and incorporating the results of these studies into nursing practice and research endeavors.

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