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Nurs Sci Q. 1993 Winter;6(4):170-8.

The role of theory in qualitative research.


Increasingly philosophers and scientists have affirmed that all knowledge is theory-laden and that methods are theory-driven. These assertions raise important questions related to the role of theory in qualitative research. There are scholars who propose that qualitative research can enhance understanding and expand theoretical knowledge from a disciplinary perspective. And there are others who contend that qualitative inquiry is purely inductive and that its validity can therefore be judged by the extent to which preconceived theory is absent from it. The purpose of this article is to examine three qualitative methods, grounded theory, ethnography, and phenomenology, and their use in nursing in order to explicate the role of theory in knowledge development. The authors propose that, by nature, inquiry, discovery, and theoretical interpretation coexist simultaneously and must be recognized as such if the theory-research linkage is to advance nursing science through qualitative research.

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