The state of the art of nursing science: A content analysis of doctoral dissertations, 1974-1984
Amos, Ethel Scott
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The purpose of this study was to examine the state of the art of nursing science as reflected in doctoral dissertations from 1974-1984. Kuhn's (1960, 1970) Theory of Scientific Development provided the framework. Kuhn postulated that the scientific status of a discipline could be determined by the degree of consensus among a community of scholars regarding concepts, theory, methodology, and subject areas studied--its paradigm. Within this context, the central question posed by this study was "What degree of consensus exists among nurse scholars regarding concepts, theory, methodology and subject areas studied?" The study's purpose was accomplished through a content analysis of dissertations (N = 280) from five established schools. Four categories reflecting the research questions and criteria for categorical placement were preestablished to provide an analytical basis for a measure of consensus. Content validity of the categories was established through use of expert judges. Chi-square tests of association and goodness of fit and a measure of consensus developed by Gibbs and Martin (1962) were used in data analyses. The results of the analyses indicated a low degree of consensus in the categories of concepts, theory and subject areas studied. Additionally, trends toward a psychological and sociological theoretical orientation to nursing and the study of the subject of health were discernable. The concept of self-concept was most frequently studies; however, no trend was discernible in this category. There was substantial to moderate consensus in the category of methodology. Trends were discernible in the use of nonprobability procedures, larger sample sizes, convenient samples, and the study of adult populations. Further analysis of categories showed no significant statistical differences by year but significant differences were found among schools. Areas of neglect were also identified. These include (a) studies of infants, children, adolescents, and the elderly, (b) studies addressing problems specific to minorities, and (c) tool development. The findings of the study provide support for the thesis that no paradigm exists in nursing at this time. However, the degree of consensus found in the broad theoretical orientations and methodology point to the possibility that a paradigm may develop in the near future.