Research practice refers to the process of inquiry with an aim of obtaining knowledge. Research theory on the other hand refers to the actual product of knowledge. It is worth noting that both research practice and research theory are integral in the acquisition of knowledge. The understanding of both is therefore of great importance. Whereas a clear and distinct relationship in nursing has not been well documented and understood it is evident that the nursing knowledge is based on the complementary features shared by the two.
The accumulation of nursing knowledge is a direct consequence of research practice coupled with research theory. Lack of clearly stipulated nursing theory may lead to acquisition of discrete information which might seem irrelevant. The guidance of a good research practice depends on the nature and functions of the research theory adopted. The research questions, design methods, data analysis and its interpretation are all formed by the research theory. According to Kaiser (2009), the subsets of research theory named are also interdependent. For instance, the research question dictates the research design to be adopted and the theory development status. The past two decades have been characterized by intensive studies all aimed at establishing the relationship that exists between research theory and practice (Kaiser, 2009). A study carried out recently indicates that the use of research theories has increased from 13% to 21% but the testing of the theories has been minimal (Dossey & Keegan, 2008). Clinical experience and practice are fruits of research theory.
The weaving of facts together is made possible by a clear research theory coupled with a comprehensive research practice. Both research theory and research practice may be descriptive, correlational or experimental (Polit & Beck, 2006). The fact that nursing is based on borrowed knowledge has cast so many doubts on whether there really exist a direct relationship between research and theory. However several studies have been carried out in the past to back the fact that a relationship really exists. Despite the fact that the two developed differently, several theoretical propositions were supported through research. The health of British soldiers for instance was monitored by charts and graphs (Burns & Grove, 2001). The period 1928-1959 registered an infinitesimal theoretical basis in all the research practices carried out. According to Burns and Grove, the demand that clinical models be tested in the nursing practice rose in the 1970s but up to 1990 borrowed theories dominated the nursing industry (2001).
Research theory plays a crucial role in research practice. Health problems are dynamic and the future approaches depend on the theories. Research findings are interpreted by research theory. The development of clinical practice protocols and diagnosis generation rely upon the use of research theories.
Several clinical theorists like Barbara Dossey and Lynn Keegan have actively been involved in showing how nursing theories contribute to research practice. The theoretical grouping of nursing into four components namely description, explanation, prediction and prescription is a clear attestation that indeed both theory and research practice are inter related (Dossey & Keegan, 2008). Nursing is based on a conceptual framework hence the need for description. The explanation component is primarily concerned with how the various nursing concepts relate. The nursing concepts need to be validated and tested statistically hence the prediction component which forms the basis for research. Prescription aspect is concerned with making all the theories a reality. The emotional support of nurses, the inculcation of positive patient attitude and medication can be put into practice to speed up recovery (Dossey & Keegan, 2008). The fact that nursing is a holistic science and a distinct medical professional can play a role in the demystification of the notion that research practice and research theory are not directly related.
It can be concluded that nursing research and theory are interrelated. They can be regarded as the building blocks of nursing knowledge which is vital in ensuring that the nursing profession moves forward.
Burns, N. & Grove, S. K. (2001). The practice of Nursing Research (4th ed). Philadelphia: WB Saunders Publications.
Dossey, B. M & Keegan, L. (2008). Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice. New York.
Kaiser, P. (2009). Nursing Research Series. Essentials of Science: Methods, Appraisal and Utilization. Northern and Southern California Nursing Research
Polit D. F, Beck, C. T. (2006). Essential in Nursing Research: Methods, appraisal, and utilization. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott Company.