Methodological considerations for studying social processes
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Methodological considerations for studying social processes

Barbara Patterson Professor, Widener University School of Nursing, Chester, Pennsylvania, US
Karen Morin Professor, Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US

Aim To discuss the nature of and considerations in the study of social processes.

Background Social processes include the elements of time, change and human interaction and many phenomena of interest to nurse researchers. Despite the significance of social processes for nursing practice and the labelling in many studies of phenomena as processes, there seems to be an inability to describe processes fully.

Discussion The paper includes a presentation of two methodological approaches for illuminating the dynamics of social processes: participant observation and prospective time-series designs. Strengths and limitations of the two paradigmatically different approaches are offered. The method an investigator chooses should be considered selectively and appropriately according to the nature of the problem, what is known about the phenomena to be studied, and the investigator’s world view and theoretical perspective. The conceptualisation of process can also influence the methodological choice.

Implications for research/practice Capturing a social process in its entirety with either a qualitative or quantitative approach can be a difficult task. The focus of this paper is an initiation and expansion of the dialogue about which methods provide the best insight into social processes. This knowledge may offer opportunities for nurse researchers to design and implement interventions for individuals as they progress through life events.

Nurse Researcher. 20, 1, 33-38. doi: 10.7748/nr2012.

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

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