The Purposes of Nursing Research

 Nursing Research

“The development of knowledge about health and the promotion of health over the full size span, care of persons with health problems and disabilities and nursing research enhance the ability of individuals to response effectively to actual or potential health problems.”
- American Nurses Association, 1982

The Purposes of Nursing Research-

The general purpose of nursing research is to answer questions or solve problems of relevance to the nursing profession. Sometimes a distinction is made between basic and applied research. Basic research is undertaken to extend the base of knowledge in a discipline, or to formulate or refine a theory. Applied research focuses on finding solutions to existing problems.

The specific purposes of nursing research include identification, description, exploration, explanation, prediction, and control.

  • Identification and Description
  • Exploration
  • Explanation
  • Prediction
  • Control

Identification and Description-

Qualitative researchers sometimes study phenomena about which little is known. In some cases, so little is known that the phenomenon has yet to be clearly identified or named or has been inadequately defined or conceptualized.

Nurse researchers have described a wide variety of phenomena. Examples include patients’ stress and coping, pain management, adaptation processes, health beliefs, rehabilitation success, and time patterns of temperature readings.

Description can be a major purpose for both qualitative and quantitative researchers. Quantitative description focuses on the prevalence, incidence, size, and measurable attributes of phenomena. Qualitative researchers, on the other hand, use in-depth methods to describe the dimensions, variations, and importance of phenomena.


Exploratory research investigates the full nature of the phenomenon, the manner in which it is manifested, and the other factors to which it is related. For example, a descriptive quantitative study of patients’ preoperative stress might seek to document the degree of stress patients experience before surgery and the percentage of patients who actually experience it.

Exploratory qualitative research is designed to shed light on the various ways in which a phenomenon is manifested and on underlying processes.


The goals of explanatory research are to understand the underpinnings of specific natural phenomena, and to explain systematic relationships among phenomena. Whereas descriptive research provides new information, and exploratory research provides promising insights, explanatory research attempts to offer understanding of the underlying causes or full nature of a phenomenon.

In qualitative studies, researchers may search for explanations about how or why a phenomenon exists or what a phenomenon means as a basis for developing a theory that is grounded in rich, in-depth, experiential evidence.


Through prediction one can estimate the probability of a specific outcome in a given situation, with predictive knowledge nurses could anticipate the effect that nursing interventions would have a patient and families.

Aware that incidence of Down's syndrome in infants of elderly mothers is more than in younger mothers. This is an example of prediction that determines that an elderly pregnant woman is at .a greater risk, that is, a pregnant woman of 40 years' old has a greater probability of getting a child with Down's syndrome than a woman of 25 years old. Therefore, prediction involves those situations where the research has the ability to predict and to some extent can explain the occurrence of specific phenomenon. Such findings would contribute to health care practices; in the above example, this may involve advising women on avoiding risk.


If one can predict the out- come of a situation the next step is to control or manipulate the situation to produce the described outcome.