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A descriptive study of research published in scientific nursing journals from 1985 to 2010

Adela Yarcheski, Noreen E Mahon, Thomas J Yarcheski
International Journal of Nursing Studies 2012, 49 (9): 1112-21

BACKGROUND: Numerous analyses of research published in scientific nursing journals have been examined over the past decades. However, a comprehensive analysis of trends in research has not been reported since 1980.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this analysis was to review randomly selected research articles published in four scientific nursing journals for the years 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010 to identify changes in selected aspects of research and to compare the findings with those from an earlier similar study.

DESIGN: This descriptive study used percentages to present trends in published studies in four scientific nursing journals for twenty-five years.

METHODS: A total of 976 studies were identified; 50% were randomly selected for each year analyzed. The foci of the research problem, care orientation, conceptual bases, research designs, data analysis procedures, discussion of findings, and recommendations and implications were analyzed.

RESULTS: Most studies from 1985 (66%) through 2010 (73%) focused on nursing practice issues; in 2010 they focused on primary health (46%) and chronicity (41%). A decrease in theory-testing research from 1985 (32%) to 2010 (21%), and in theory-based studies from 1985 (31%) to 2010 (22%) was noted. Qualitative studies increased from 1985 (3%) to 2010 (21%). Psychological variables and adult populations continue to be studied mainly over 25 years. For quantitative studies, there were increases in correlational designs from 1985 (35%) to 2010 (38%), experimental designs from 1985 (16%) to 2010 (18%), and methodological studies from 1985 (5%) to 2010 (24%). There were decreases in descriptive studies from 1985 (20%) to 2010 (5%), and comparative studies from 1985 (19%) to 2010 (10%). The use of multivariate statistics increased over time. In 1985, 61% of researchers did not link their findings to theory guiding the study; 52% did not in 2010. For qualitative research, approximately 50% fell in the "other category" over the 25 years; in 2010, grounded theory (15%), phenomenological (15%) and ethnographic (20%) designs were used.

CONCLUSIONS: Trends indicated that the building of science has been slow, incremental, and subtle, as found in the earlier study. Trends suggest a growing maturity in the research designs.


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