• communication;
  • competency;
  • language consistency;
  • nursing;
  • reasoning;
  • theory

webber p.b. (2010) Language consistency: a missing link in theory, research and reasoning? Journal of Advanced Nursing66(1), 218–227.


Title.  Language consistency: a missing link in theory, research and reasoning?

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study conducted to determine if there is a lack of language consistency in nursing texts and among nursing educators related to theory, research and reasoning.

Background.  Analysis of international language, communication and nursing literature revealed the essential role language consistency plays in promoting competency and desirable behavioural outcomes. It also revealed the difficulty nursing has had in gaining consistency of language associated with theory, research and reasoning.

Method.  Six nursing theory, research and terminology texts with international circulation were analysed to identify key words related to theory, research and reasoning and to determine consistency of definitions among texts. Next, 97 nursing educators were surveyed to determine their ability to define the same key words. Educators were recruited during three national nursing education meetings in the United States of America between 2006 and 2007.

Findings.  Analysis revealed significant variability in definitions of key words among texts and in nursing educators’ ability to match any defining words used by the texts and by each other.

Conclusion.  Epistemologically, the use of inconsistent language among texts and educators may be playing a role in the continuing marginalization of theory, research and reasoning in nursing education and practice; ultimately, hindering the profession’s epistemological growth. Recommendations include a call for consensus of key words and meanings associated with theory, research and reasoning and the development of a language essentials document to support development of competency.