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Keywords:

  • nursing midrange theory;
  • ethological methods;
  • nursing research;
  • nursing knowledge;
  • descriptive-level derived theory;
  • inductive methods

Abstract

Researchers from various fields use ethological methods to systematically observe, describe, and measure animal and human nonverbal behavior. The purpose of this article is to argue that their application in nursing will benefit development of descriptive-level knowledge about complex behavioral phenomena. To advance the argument for applying these methods in nursing, we examine the compatibility of the philosophical assumptions underlying ethology with nursing, assess if ethology can help nursing achieve some of its aims, and determine the benefits of using ethology when observation of a phenomenon is required. Neonatal pain is used to illustrate how ethology can be used to develop descriptive-level nursing knowledge and midrange theory. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 26:74–84, 2003