Theoretical foundation plays a significant role in any occupation field, and nursing is not an exception. A nursing theory can be defined as an “organized and systematic articulation of a set of statements related to questions in the discipline of nursing” (Application of Theory in Nursing Process, 2012). Sustainable theoretical knowledge allows a nurse to take relevant decisions and estimate reasonably potential outcomes. In the meantime, a theory should fit the essential requirements of logical and pragmatic adequacy, generality, predictability, testability and operational adequacy so that a nurse can take it as a base (McEwen & Wills, 2014). Therefore, the question arises regarding the most effective approaches that might assist in a theory evaluation.
First and foremost, one should necessarily note that the criterion of testability is critical for theory evaluation as long as it is supposed to determine one’s decision either to implement the relevant practice or to reject it. As a result, one might suggest that the primary question to be asked while evaluating a theory is the following:
“Does the theory generate testable hypotheses?” (McEwen & Wills, 2014, p.99).
There are numerous examples of theories that might seem reasonable and trustworthy; meanwhile, one is unable to test their validity as they fail to provide a clear and concise hypothesis. The implementation of theories that cannot be tested may lead to unexpected outcomes crucial nursing performance.
Another aspect that is of particular importance in the nursing field is the prospect of a practical application of the evaluated theory. In other words, theoretical knowledge is particularly helpful if one has a chance to integrate it into further practices or research. Thus, Philosophy Doctor, Yann-Fen C. Chao assumes that the utility test is the first step in the theory testing process. He believes that a valid theory should necessarily fit the requirements of social utility, congruence, and significance (Chao, 2012). As a result, one might suggest that the second question vital for theory evaluation can be the following:
“Does the theory guide practice or can it be used as a body of knowledge?” (McEwen & Wills, 2014, p.99).
Finally, the evaluated theory must provide an explicit and simple description of the analyzed concept as well as clear guidelines for its application. Hence, numerous researchers note that one of the primary concerns of theorists is to lessen a gap between theoretical insights and practical actions (Theofanidis & Fountouki, 2008). The following goal might be achieved by making one’s theory maximally comprehensible so that its content is available to an average nurse. One might, consequently, suggest that the third question significant for performing an efficient evaluation is the following:
“Is the theory parsimonious?” (McEwen & Wills, 2014, p.99).
One believes that excessive complexity is likely to confuse a nurse and prevent him or her from applying the relevant concept to practice. Thus, a theory might turn out to be useless regardless of the reasonable ideas that it elucidates.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that valid theories are significant for nursing practice as they enable a nurse to carry out a purposeful and sustainable performance. Theoretical knowledge comprises the essential basis that is further integrated into a particular strategy of treatment or becomes a starting point of a new research. Therefore, a relevant evaluation of a theory is critical as it determines the quality of further research or methods of intervention that are base on this theory.
Application of Theory in Nursing Process. (2012). Web.
Chao, YF.C. (2012). Theory Analysis and Evaluation. Web.
McEwen, M., & Wills, E.M. (2014). Theoretical Basis for Nursing. Shanghai, China: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Theofanidis, D., & Fountouki, A. (2008). Nursing theory: A discussion on an ambiguous concept. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 1(1), 15-20.