Aims. The aim of this paper is to operationalize the principle-based method of concept analysis.
Background. While nursing has embraced the use of concept analysis as a valid and significant entrée into an area of research, methodological development has created strategies of inquiry that vary in purpose and in the nature of their findings.
Discussion. We propose that, as the primary utility of concept analysis is to determine the existing state of the science so that further work may be strategically and appropriately planned, the method described as principle-based concept analysis is superior in providing evidence to support subsequent inquiry into the concept of interest.
Three problematic issues are discussed in an effort to clarify and procedurally explicate the strategies employed in this approach: selecting disciplinary literatures for inclusion in the analysis; conceptually-driven sampling issues; and within- and across-discipline analytic techniques.
Conclusion. In this form of concept analysis, each principle contributes to an understanding of the strengths and limitations of the present state of the concept in the scientific literature. We believe that this perspective will enable nursing to begin to harness the power of concept analysis for advancing science rather than simply imagining what a concept could be or constructing what we believe it should be.