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Theory, Research, and Practice in the Nursing Sphere

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Theory, Research, and Practice in the Nursing Sphere

There are generally four types of theories in the nursing sphere, namely descriptive, explanatory, prescriptive, and predictive frameworks. In this regard, the former theories aim at describing practices and phenomena as well as identifying and defining the important factors that can then be further examined separately. As such, descriptive models are important as an initial step of knowledge construction and as guiding principles for further research. Yet, they do not provide concrete prescriptions and, thus, are not implacable in practice without additional scientific investigation. For this reason, descriptive theories are usually having the form of grand theories of nursing, such as, for instance, health as expanding consciousness framework.

Explanatory theories, in turn, intend to establish the causal or correlation links between different variables that are related to certain activities or phenomena. They lead to a deeper understanding of various issues and can serve as a good platform for future research. In a similar vein, exploratory frameworks are more easily applicable in practice compared to descriptive theories. For example, Nightingale’s environmental theory that draws the connection between good hygiene, the usage of clean bed linen and water, and access to the fresh air and patient’s recovery is quite straightforward in its application. Still, some findings may be more difficult to adopt in practice. For example, it can be the knowledge that professional stigma negatively affects the treatment (Ordan et al., 2018).

Next, prescriptive theories usually provide the concrete framework for the practitioners how to act in certain situations or address particular problems. Therefore, such models are of the greatest importance for practitioners. Moreover, they also inspire additional investigations that examine the validity of the proposed hypotheses using statistical methods. Finally, predictive theories are similar to explanatory ones with the difference that while the latter analyzes the existing relationships between variables, the former draws the causal links between actions and situations and their possible consequences. Additionally, predictive models are also can be both easily implacable in practice or not depending on whether it is grand-level, middle-range, or practice level theory.


Ordan, R., Shor, R., Liebergall‐Wischnitzer, M., Noble, L., & Noble, A. (2018). Nurses’ professional stigma and attitudes towards postpartum women with severe mental illness. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27(7-8), 1543-1551. Web.

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