What is it about?

Critical review of: Understanding Nursing Research: Building an Evidence-Based Practice– 4th Edition by Nancy Burns and Susan K Grove. 2007. Saunders – Elsevier, St Louis, MO, USA. ISBN 139781416026402. 586 pp.

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Why is it important?

This is the fourth edition of this, to date, successful US-based nursing research text. In an era where research and evidence-based practice are essential to nursing practice, at a research awareness, consumerism, or application level, any new addition is welcome.


At first glance, this text is well-written, well apportioned and seemingly logically constructed. It is obviously targeted at the undergraduate market with its mostly descriptive text broken up into ‘bite-sized’, manageable chunks – and peppered with a variety of different pedagogical features. I have several issues with this book. Firstly, in my mind, there is too much pedagogy in this book that is not always well placed. This has a tendency to break up the natural flow of the main written text. Secondly, the fact that the sub-title is ‘Building an Evidence-Based Practice’, I would have expected this concept to be far more visible than it is – and integrated throughout. Instead, the main focus comes in the very last chapter and feels more like a bit added on. It feels, then, as if the authors have decided to ‘jump on the band-wagon’ at the last minute. Thirdly, although I said earlier that the book overall is logically constructed, the sequence of some of the chapters is not. For instance, why introduce the paradigmatic concepts of qualitative and quantitative approaches early on and then wait several more chapters before discussing underpinning theoretical and philosophical frame- works? Fourthly, as is my criticism of most US-based nursing research texts, is that, despite the majority of conducted nursing research worldwide being qual- itative, this text is very much quantita- tive-heavy. That should please any potential medical profession’s readers though – who would benefit far more from quantitative-focused books. Fifthly, a major omission from this book is the lack of any detailed inclusion of ‘mixed methods’ research. Very important methodologies, such as action research, do not even get a mention. With a plethora of nursing research texts available, there is significant pressure on authors to present something new and different to the market. I speak from experience here, as a co-author of a revised edition of a successful Austra- lasian nursing and midwifery research book. If this is the case then, the question to ask is ‘is this book any better (or different) than the plethora of other current research texts’ – especially those out of the US stable? I would say not – and I definitely prefer other available sources. I am not saying that this book is not worth purchasing. Whether you choose this book, or one of the many other nursing research options, is simply a matter of choice. They do not vary that much in terms of style and process as, at the end of the day, research is research. The principles are generic to most disciplines and most settings in health care. There is, after all, only so many different ways that you can ‘skin a rabbit’. My advice would be to shop around and see which text fits you or your organization best – before you part with hard-earned money.

Dr Dean Whitehead
Flinders University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Understanding Nursing Research: Building an Evidence-Based Practice- 4th Edition, Journal of Clinical Nursing, January 2008, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2006.01913.x.
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