Demystifying nursing research

Wendy Durham and Chris Sykes explain conceptual frameworks and how they are used in nursing research

Although doctorate studies and research in nursing are growing, there are still large numbers of nurses and other professional groups who find research terminology a challenge.

It is imperative if we are to encourage more professional staff to undertake and embrace doctorate study and research that we ensure the terminology and research processes are clear and understandable. 

As professional doctorate students we were surprised by how confusing some of the research terms were and how limited the supporting explanatory information.

Conceptual framework

One of the most challenging areas encountered was the conceptual framework. There was limited evidence available to support the development of a comprehensive conceptual framework and what was available was often difficult to decipher and synthesise. Therefore our intention was to attempt to demystify these terms.

It has been said that the conceptual framework can help the researcher to focus and develop their work as it progresses (Bordage 2009).  

Put simply, a conceptual framework is a plan of your research which shows the underpinning research methodology, theoretical principals, interpretative stance and key variables. 

It can be adapted as necessary as the research progresses and thus provides a conceptual record of your research journey. Used appropriately, the framework can support the researcher’s progression from a descriptive to conceptual understanding of their research and is therefore a crucial tool to demonstrating doctorateness.

Read the full article

Bordage G (2009) Conceptual frameworks to illuminate and magnify. Medical Education. 41, 4, 312-319.

About the authors

Wendy Durham is a practice educator at Hinchingbrooke NHS Trust, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, UK; Chris Sykes is an education development manager at Norfolk and Suffolk Workforce Partnership, UK

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