1. Im, Eun-Ok PhD, MPH, RN, CNS, FAAN

Article Content

Advances in computer-based technology have become an important aspect of nursing research. With emphasis on innovation in research by funding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, nurse researchers are attracted to innovative computer technologies.


Computer technology may be viewed as an innovative aspect of a nursing study when the rationale for using it is clear and solid. However, computer technology may be viewed as a methodological flaw if the rationale for its use in a specific study is weak. For example, the Internet is frequently used as a survey tool in nursing research. Computer technology research components would be worthy of the designation "innovative" if the Internet can provide better access to research participants residing in geographically dispersed areas nationally or internationally or if it can provide a better medium for exploring a specific nursing phenomenon, especially a stigmatized condition (e.g., drug abuse, sexual abuse, cancer, HIV infection, rare genetic problems, etc.). However, if the rationale for including computer technologies in a specific study is not strong or the study could be more effectively conducted using conventional research methods (e.g., pen-and-pencil surveys, mail surveys, and telephone surveys), use of the Internet may detract from the study.


There are general guidelines for the use of the Internet in research. First, researchers should carefully consider the rationale for incorporating computer technologies in their studies, looking at both the advantages and disadvantages of using a specific computer technology. Consulting with experts will provide insights on the pros and cons of using computer technologies in a specific study. Second, although many studies use computer technologies, potential issues in using the technologies are still being discovered. Thus, researchers should be aware of and sensitive to potential unexpected issues throughout the research process. With the daily advances in computer technologies, researchers frequently encounter unanticipated problems. Indeed, many issues related to security, authenticity, self-reporting, comparison of computer-based instruments to conventional instruments, and contraction with commercial bodies providing computer technologies have been reported. Finally, researchers should be conscious of the limitations of the specific computer technology that they adopt and work to resolve them. For example, current computer technologies may not provide high-resolution images of pictures taken in clinical or home settings, which may be essential for health assessment and monitoring of a specific health condition. Thus, researchers who want to use image transfers need to consider how to supplement and strengthen this strategy using other computer technologies or other design strategies in their health assessment and monitoring process.


Throughout our history, new ideas and technologies have been welcomed, carefully critiqued, and discarded or accepted by nurse researchers to advance nursing science. Our efforts to adopt new computer technologies to advance nursing science for better nursing care will continue, and these efforts will require critical minds and careful consideration of the benefits and disadvantages of using them.


Eun-Ok Im, PhD, MPH, RN, CNS, FAAN


Professor and La Quinta Motor Inns Inc. Centennial Professor


School of Nursing, The University of Texas at Austin