The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the utility of qualitative methods for Nursing research, to this end a case is made for the use of fieldwork methods. The paper focuses upon a study which was concerned with student nurses' accounts of their experience of being learners of nursing. An overview of the students' construction of their nursing world is given and then the discussion moves to one particular aspect described as ‘nursing in the dark’. This is a conceptual category which deals with the data pertaining to the student's difficulties concerning what they could say to patients. The reader is thus furnished with a substantive as well as a methodological view of the study. The analysis draws upon the work of Glaser & Strauss, both in the attempt to generate ground theory and by reference to their work concerning awareness contexts.