Aim To compare the inclusion and the influences of selected variables on hypothesis testing during the 1980s and 1990s.
Background In spite of the emphasis on conducting inquiry consistent with the tenets of logical positivism, there have been no studies investigating the frequency and patterns of hypothesis testing in nursing research
Data sources The sample was obtained from the journal Nursing Research which was the research journal with the highest circulation during the study period under study. All quantitative studies published during the two decades including briefs and historical studies were included in the analyses
Review methods A retrospective design was used to select the sample. Five years from the 1980s and 1990s each were randomly selected from the journal, Nursing Research. Of the 582 studies, 517 met inclusion criteria.
Discussion Findings suggest that there has been a decline in the use of hypothesis testing in the last decades of the 20th century. Further research is needed to identify the factors that influence the conduction of research with hypothesis testing.
Conclusion Hypothesis testing in nursing research showed a steady decline from the 1980s to 1990s. Research purposes of explanation, and prediction/control increased the likelihood of hypothesis testing.
Implications for practice Hypothesis testing strengthens the quality of the quantitative studies, increases the generality of findings and provides dependable knowledge. This is particularly true for quantitative studies that aim to explore, explain and predict/control phenomena and/or test theories. The findings also have implications for doctoral programmes, research preparation of nurse-investigators, and theory testing.