The struggle for methodological orthodoxy in nursing research: The case of mental health


  • This article is a modified version of a keynote address given at the St Vincent's Annual Research Symposium ‘Evidence based practice: Research and reality’, The Garvan Institute, Sydney, Australia, August 2002.

  • Edward White, PhD, MSc (SocPol), MSc (SocRes), PGCEA, RMN, DipCPN, RNT, FANZCMHN, FNSWCN

Correspondence: Edward White, Faculty of Nursing Midwifery and Health, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 222, Lindfield, NSW 2070, Australia. Email:


ABSTRACT: This paper is not intended as an exhaustive review of contemporary mental health nursing research. Rather, the intention is to explore some of the competing arguments for different methodological approaches in social research, using mental health nursing as a case example. The paper questions the extent to which the artificially dichotomized debate over quantitative versus qualitative research impacts upon the working lives of practitioners, managers and policy makers. In particular, the paper traces the development of survey method, during this its centennial anniversary year. It also traces its subsequent decline, in favour of what will be referred to as the new methodological orthodoxy in nursing research. It is also interwoven with occasional accounts of personal experience, drawn from an international perspective. The paper calls for a rapprochement between different wings of methodological opinion, in deference to a publicly unified position for nursing research in which the achievement of quality becomes the over-arching concern.