1. Chinn, Peggy L. RN, PhD, FAAN

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The methods that nurse scholars are developing to address the problems of our discipline are wide ranging in scope and impressive in their creativity. However, as Sandra Harding [1] has noted concerning feminist inquiry, methods in and of themselves do not account for the fruitfulness and power of the scholarly work of the discipline. Harding identified three features of feminist research that can be seen in an historic overview of feminist research. These are (1) the focus on the study of "gender" and its consequences, (2) the location of questions that originate in women's experiences, and (3) the practice of insisting that the researcher be placed in the same critical plane as the over subject matter. Harding notes that each of these features have important implications for the selection of method, but do not constitute or demand a unique "feminist" method of inquiry.


As I reflected on the articles that appear in this issue of ANS, it is clear that feminist approaches to inquiry have had a significant influence on the methods and methodologies that nurses use. However, I agree with Harding that the methods themselves do not necessarily reflect approaches unique to nursing, nor do the methods account for the fruitfulness of our efforts. I believe that Harding's insights have important implications for the discipline of nursing.


First, while there are instances where nursing inquiry focuses on gender as does feminist inquiry, the importance of nursing research I believe to be located in two other areas of central focus-wellness and caring. Consistently, the titles in the Table ofcontents of our major research and scholarly journals reflect that indeed, nurses are concerned with problems and questions that direct our inquiry toward promoting wellness-regardless of the processes of illness or health. At the same time, when nurses are also addressing questions and problems of how nurses can best promote wellness, their work contributes to the foundations for caring even in the most challenging of circumstances. It is the growing body of evidence concerning how to care for people in challenging circumstances that indeed distinguishes, in my view, the nature of nurse caring from what people experience as caring in their everyday lives.


Analogous to Harding's identification of feminist traditions that locate questions originating in women's experiences, nurse scholars locate questions originating in the actual experience of health and illness. A single project may focus on one specific dimension of experience, but our literature taken together shows an impressive commitment to all aspects of human experience, located in the "place" of the person who experiences the health or illness challenge.


The feminist practice of insisting that the researcher be placed in the same critical plane as the overt subject matter appears increasingly in nursing's scholarship, but I believe that this is an idea that could provide important links to bridging gaps that remain between research and practice. Increasingly, nurse researchers are involved in clinical practice, and locate their work within a practice context that is meaningful to the researcher. Making this meaningful link explicit in our work can contribute to making our efforts explicitly grounded in the nursing care contexts that we share.


I appreciate Harding's insights that challenge the idea of method as being that which accounts for the uniqueness or importance of research efforts, and her caution to avoid "methodolatry." At the same time, I applaud the search for the creation of sound methods that can better serve our disciplinary purposes, grounded in our search for knowledge of the whole, of health, and of caring. There are illustrations of several scholarly approaches to method, and to methodology, in this issue of ANS. I hope that you the reader will find these articles stimulating and challenging in your own search for approaches to inquiry and to practice.


Peggy L. Chinn, RN, PhD, FAAN






1. Harding S. The method question. In: Omery A, Kasper CR, Page GG. In Search of Nursing Science. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage; 1995. [Context Link]