Academic journal article Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice

Wilsonian Methods of Concept Analysis: A Critique

Academic journal article Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice

Wilsonian Methods of Concept Analysis: A Critique

Article excerpt

Wilsonian methods of concept analysis-that is, the method proposed by Wilson and Wilson-derived methods in nursing (as described by Walker and Avant; Chinn and Kramer [Jacobs]; Schwartz-Barcott and Kim; and Rodgers)-are discussed and compared in this article. The evolution and modifications of Wilson's method in nursing are described and research that has used these methods, assessed. The transformation of Wilson's method is traced as each author has adopted his techniques and attempted to modify the method to correct for limitations. We suggest that these adaptations and modifications ultimately erode Wilson's method. Further, the Wilson-derived methods have been overly simplified and used by nurse researchers in a prescriptive manner, and the results often do not serve the purpose of expanding nursing knowledge. We conclude that, considering the significance of concept development for the nursing profession, the development of new methods and a means for evaluating conceptual inquiry must be given priority.

.. .the use of concepts from adjunctive disciplines places a special burden upon theorists and nurses who study theory. It is urgent that the concepts adopted for nursing are accurately reproduced. (Levine, 1995, p. 13)

Nurse researchers are paying increasing attention to concepts important to the theoretical foundation of nursing. Since the conceptual basis of nursing theory and research was constructed in a relatively short time using concepts adopted from other disciplines, reexamination of these concepts for relevance and fit is both critical and overdue. In the process of applying borrowed concepts to the nursing context, their definitions were possibly altered, so that reexploration of the meaning, application, and the appropriateness of the borrowed concepts is necessary. Thus, nursing's introspective reevaluation of the discipline's theoretical base is important and urgent.

Despite increased emphasis on concept analysis and the rapidly increasing number of publications exploring concepts, progress has been disconcertingly slow. There has been a disproportionately small gain in knowledge acquisition for the numbers of researchers involved and the numbers of articles published. In this article, we argue that this is adequate rationale for examining the methods used for concept analysis. We first discuss Wilson's (1963/1969) method of concept analysis and Wilson-derived methods (i.e., those adapted into nursing by Walker and Avant (1983, 1988, 1995) and Chinn and Kramer [Jacobs]1 (1983, 1987, 1991) and further modified by Schwartz-Barcott and Kim (1986,1993) and Rodgers (1989a, 1993). Excluded from this analysis are concrete physiological phenomena that are also treated as concepts in nursing. Rather, we are primarily interested in more abstract behavioral concepts and the methods used to delineate and clarify them.

In order to achieve these aims, we first described the method proposed by Wilson and then reviewed four Wilson-derived methods of concept analysis used in nursing (see Figure 1). Next, articles that analyzed concepts using these methods were identified, and the application, adherence to the method, and the analytic outcome(s) described in these articles were critiqued.


Wilson's Method

In the 1960s, Wilson (1963/1969) published a detailed approach to concept analysis, describing 11 techniques (pp. 23-29) intended to guide analysis. It was not Wilson's intent that all techniques be used in all cases; rather, use of a given technique depended on its appropriateness to the question. Wilson's seven "steps" (pp. 94-95) incorporating these 11 techniques are as follows:

(1) Isolate the conceptual question from other questions:

Isolate questions of concept. Conceptual analysis should not be performed on questions of fact, value, or relationships. If research questions contain more than one concept, the individual concepts should be isolated and addressed first. …

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