Aim To explore the notion of ‘hubris’ as an important consideration of reflexive thinking in qualitative research and how over-exuberant assumptions when interpreting data can impede conceptual development.
Background The author draws on experiences of hubris in his grounded theory PhD study.
Data sources The study has undergone two phases of data collection and analysis. Phase one involved semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 20 registered nurse mentors. Preliminary findings were further developed by theoretical sampling of nurse mentors and practice educators in four major health boards in the UK, including 12 focus groups (n=43) and three further semi-structured interviews.
Review methods Recognising hubris as a critical component of reflexive thinking was a feature of a grounded theory study exploring mentors’ experiences of assessing students on the borderline of achievement in nursing practice.
Discussion Three examples of hubris contributing to hastily advanced interpretive analysis are discussed in terms of the researcher’s personal and professional positioning towards participants, the development of categories and the ethical management of data. The complexity of hubris as an important aspect of reflexive thinking is highlighted.
Conclusion Virtue ethics and the importance of keen interpretative husbandry as part of reflexive mindfulness are proposed, if not as solutions to the dilemmas of hubris, then at least as safeguarding against analytic pitfalls.
Implications for practice The grounded theory study findings will make practice recommendations concerning mentors’ support of students on the borderline of achievement of competence. The study will offer a theoretical perspective on mentorship conceptualised as a community of assessors throughout the duration of nursing programmes rather than purely an individual activity between student and mentor.