Aim. This paper describes the process of research use undertaken by groups of specialist nurses involved in the construction of policy recommendations for nursing practice.
Background. A number of prescriptive models of research use have been described in the nursing literature. Previous studies have attempted to measure the instrumental use of research findings in nursing practice. However, there is no evidence on how research use occurs, or why results differ across individuals, settings, tasks or time. There has been little investigation into the congruence of prescriptive models with the realities of research use in practice.
Method. The study used an ethnomethodological approach to describe the practical reasoning undertaken by specialist nurses during research use. The method was participant observation with three clinical workgroups, comprising a series of meetings of practitioners from between 11 and 25 health care provider organizations. Data collected from recording discussions at the meetings were analysed using grounded data reduction, and were subject to external verification of description and inference.
Findings. The process of research use consistently contained four stages of practical reasoning comprising research identification, confirmation, evaluation and application. Each stage involved practitioners in cognitive work to translate the research evidence into practice policy.
Conclusions. While the process of research use described in the findings is not markedly different in outline from prescriptive models of the process available in the literature, inconsistencies are highlighted in the way the process is conceptualized. Prescriptive models of research use do not adequately reflect the task of problem-setting, use of multiple frames of reference for evaluation, and how information from research is to be integrated with information from other sources.