Theory Building in Nursing

Building theories allow scientists to study phenomena of the real world by representing them in the form of abstract models. This approach provides researchers with a useful tool that makes it possible to reduce the complexity of the processes in question by focusing on the most relevant aspects of them. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the process of theory building in application to family nursing.

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The process of building a new theory can be approached in different ways. Scientists developed deductive and inductive methods of theory building that, in some sense, are opposite to each over. A deductive approach suggests using a hypothesis to start working on a new theory. Such methods rely on logical conclusions and are aimed at testing the initial assumption (Reed & Shearer, 2017). In contrast to deduction, induction is focused on observation and attempts to narrow the scope of the question (Smith & Parker, 2015). This approach is useful for studying new phenomena without any preconceived ideas about the subject.

Family nurse practitioners work to provide comprehensive care over an extended period with particular emphasis on preventive medicine. These specialists do not specialize in specific diseases or body systems and focus on maintaining the wellbeing of their patients (Kaakinen, Coehlo, Steele, & Robinson, 2018). The broad scope of the field allows using elements of both inductive and deductive approaches while building test theories. Observation of large numbers of people over long periods allows using inductive methods to find patterns. At the next stage of research, the deductive tools allow suggesting a hypothesis and start testing it.

Building new theories allows scientists to improve the understanding of different phenomena by creating models that abstractly represent the world. A methodical approach to theory building is required to develop a consistent and useful theory that adequately describes the studied phenomenon. Inductive and deductive reasoning provide different approaches to the development of a new theory. Research in family nurse practice allows using elements of both frameworks.


Kaakinen, J. R., Coehlo, D. P., Steele, R., & Robinson, M. (2018). Family health care nursing: Theory, practice, and research (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis.

Reed, P. G., & Shearer, N. B. C. (2017). Nursing knowledge and theory innovation: advancing the science of practice (2nd ed.). New York: NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Smith, M. C., & Parker, M. E. (2015). Nursing theories and nursing practice (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis.

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