Skip to main content

Nursing@Simmons - Nursing 410 Research Methods: Nursing Theories

This course guide is designed to support the 2SN students in NURS 410 and covers Library resources and tools, effective search strategies and examples of scholarly research formats.

What's on this page?

The resources on this page will help you find information about nursing theories and conceptual models, as well as tips for finding theory-based articles.

What is a Conceptual Model?

Conceptual models (sometimes referred to as conceptual frameworks or grand theories) are abstract representations of phenomena of interest to the discipline.

Specific theories can be derived from these conceptual models. The conceptual models themselves are not test-able, but the theories derived from the models may be tested.

These grand theories provide global perspectives of the discipline and offer ways of viewing nursing phenomena on the basis of these perspectives. Examples of conceptual models in nursing are those of Martha Rogers, Imogene King, Hildegarde Peplau, Jean Watson, and Florence nightingale.

Source: Encyclopedia of Nursing Research

What is a Nursing Theory?

A nursing theory, also called a nursing model, is a framework developed to guide nurses in how they care for their patients. Often, these frameworks define the practice of nursing, identify the role of the nurse, and explain the nursing process as it relates to the idea behind the nursing theory.

Many nursing theories are created from nurses' observations during their own careers, as well as methodologies they developed during their individual practice. These theories are then presented with scholarly evidence to support them.


Find Information about Nursing Theories

These websites will give you information about nursing theories and theorists.  This is a great place to start if you aren't sure which nursing theories might apply to your chosen topic.

Searching the Literature

Need help finding a theory-based research article?  Revisit the Nursing Theory Articles section of the Finding Different Types of Articles tutorial for a refresher.

Finding Different Types of Articles Tutorial

This interactive tutorial will walk you through how to search for theory articles.

Still having trouble?  Watch the Research Rescue session on finding theory-based research articles.

Find Theory Articles

There are a few different ways to find articles that apply a theory or conceptual model to a research study.  If you have a specific topic in mind, you might need to try different techniques until you find an article that fits.

Search for the Name of the Theory or Theorist

If you know of a particular theory or conceptual model that may have been applied to your topic, try adding the name of the theory or theorist as one of your search terms.  

For example:

Database search for Orem self care and heart disease

Search for Theoretical Model or Conceptual Framework

You can also try adding the terms "theoretical model" or "conceptual framework" to your search.  Not every article that comes up will meet the criteria for this assignment, but theory-based articles are often tagged with one of these terms.  It's helpful to include the quotation marks, which searches for these terms as phrases, rather than individual words.  

For example:

Database search for "theoretical model" or "conceptual framework" and heart disease

General Search tips:

  • The number of primary research articles that use a particular theory is relatively small, so you might not be able to find an article that addresses your exact PICO question and meets the criteria for this assignment.  It's a good idea to start with a broad topic (you'll probably be able to get closer to your PICO question for the systematic reviews assignment).
  • Start very broad, and then narrow down once you see how many results you have to work with.  You can always add more search terms if you get a lot of results.
  • Try putting one concept on each line, in order to connect different concepts.
  • If you're getting a lot of irrelevant results, try putting quotation marks around the name of the theory.  This will search for the phrase as a whole, rather than searching for individual words.

For more search terms, check out the Database Search Tips, Tutorials & More tab of this guide!

Need help?  Ask a librarian!