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Research methods for graduate students: A practical framework to guide teachers and learners


  • Patricia F. Pearce MPH, PhD, FNP, FAANP,

    (Associate Professor), Corresponding author
    1. Loyola University College of Social Sciences, School of Nursing, New Orleans, Louisiana
    • Correspondence Patricia F. Pearce, MPH, PhD, FNP, FAANP, Loyola University, College of Social Sciences School of Nursing, 6363 St. Charles Avenue, Stallings Hall #212C, New Orleans, LA 70118. Tel: 205-541-8988; E-mail:,

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  • Becky J. Christian PhD, RN,

    (Professor and Interim Chair, Family, Child Health, & Caregiving Department School of Nursing)
    1. University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, Birmingham, Alabama
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  • Sandra L. Smith PhD, APRN, NNP-BC,

    (Associate Professor)
    1. University of Louisville School of Nursing, Louisville, Kentucky
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  • David E. Vance PhD, MGG

    (Associate Professor, Associate Director, Center for Nursing Research)
    1. University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, Birmingham, Alabama
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The purpose of this article is to present the Arrow Framework for Research Design, an organizing framework that facilitates teaching and learning of research methods, providing logical organization of interrelationships between concepts, content, and context of research methods, and practice application. The Arrow Framework was designed for teaching and learning research methods to facilitate progression of knowledge acquisition through synthesis.

Data sources

The framework was developed over several years and used successfully to teach masters, DNP, and PhD nursing students across five universities. The framework is presented with incremental graphics and narrative for teaching.


The Arrow Framework provides user-friendly information, in an organized and systematic approach demonstrated as successful for teaching and learning the foundational language of research, facilitating synthesis and application in scholarly endeavors.

Implications for practice

The Arrow Framework will be useful for educators and students in teaching and learning research language, relationships, and application of methods. The materials are easily adaptable to slide or paper presentation, and meet learner needs for narrative and visual presentation. Teaching research design to graduate students is critical to meet the expectation that students are to understand the scientific underpinnings of nursing science and appropriate use of evidence that are essential for well-educated practitioners.