Much research has supported the conclusion of the report from The Royal College of Surgeons and College of Anaesthetists (1990), London, England, that the relief of postoperative pain is in many cases unsatisfactory and calls for more research on the effectiveness of educational programmes A prime aim of nursing research is to influence and to improve practice In relation to postoperative pain Sofaer's (1985) study was an example of the use of a quasi-experimental approach to improve postoperative pain relief through nurse education Sofaer suggests that although positive effects were demonstrated they may not have been sustained in the long term Further, Sofaer suggests that action research may have produced a more sustainable change This paper critically discusses the use of these two research methods in relation to this problem