Theory Development and Evaluation

Theory Development and Evaluation

In the field of nursing, it’s important to examine the science and art of theory development and evaluation. One of the most critical components to nursing is the idea of theory development as it helps to advance knowledge of the discipline. Historically, most nursing theorists did not set out to create a nursing theory. Most published authors began building a theory as a way to improve care delivered to patients, either through improving direct clinical practice or by educating future nurses (Alejandro, 2017). These theorists were considered risk takers with lifetime commitments to the nursing profession as a whole (Alejandro, 2017). By seeking to improve and change the way nurses’ practice, researchers have been able to study ways in which to create standard works from evidence-based practice as a working theory (Butts & Rich, 2015). The different components of a theory such as the concepts, statements, and theoretical assertions further explain the said theory and its importance.

Furthermore, nursing theories set forth into motion the better understanding of nursing phenomena and guide scholarly development of the science of nursing practice through research (Butts & Rich, 2015). A nursing theory aims to address a phenomenon of a particular interest that is being proposed with several considerations follow, such as its completeness and logic, internal consistency, and correspondence with empirical findings. The basics of the theory also need to be determined whether it has been defined operationally for testing (Butts & Rich, 2015). By analyzing in this way, the researcher is able to further develop the theory in a logical manner (Butts & Rich, 2015). The theory is developed by accumulating scientific evidence with rigorous research to either refute or support the proposed statements. Nursing theory development is not hard to understand, they are created in a pursued systematic scholarly effort. Strict development of nursing theories, then, is a high priority for the future of the discipline and the practice of nursing profession (Alejandro, 2017).

Overall, the systematic development of theories allows for best implementation and peer evaluation. The one aspect that all theories have in common, of each approaching theory development in a precise, systematic manner, allows for one to make the stages of development explicit. Nurses must systematically assess their proposed theory of nursing and then publish it for the nursing community to review and debate engages in a process that is critical to advancement of theory development (Alejandro, 2017). Then, as the scholarly work is published as literature and peer-reviewed, other nurse theoreticians and researchers review and critique the adequacy of the logical processes used in the development of the theory (Alejandro, 2017). These unbiased reviewers are able to evaluate with fresh eyes the relation of the theory to practice and other available research findings (Gray, Grove, & Sutherland, 2018). Overall, theories are explicit and open to question and examination as part of their development and implementation (Nilsen,2015).  However, if deductions from a theory are incorrect, the theory can be adapted, extended or abandoned. Theories are more consistent with existing facts, which usually means a hypothesis based on an established theory is a more educated guess (Gray, Grove, & Sutherland, 2018). Furthermore, theories give individual facts a meaningful context and contribute towards building an integrated body of knowledge (Alejandro, 2017).


Alejandro, J. (2017, February). Lessons learned through nursing theory : Nursing2020. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from

Butts, J. & Rich, K. (2015). Philosophies and Theories for Advanced Nursing Practice (3rd edition) Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning ISBN:978-1-284-11224-5

Gray, J., Grove, S. & Sutherland, S. (2018). Burns and Grove’s The Practice of Nursing Research: Appraisal, Synthesis, and Generation of Evidence (8th ed.).St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier. ISBN: 978-0323377584

Nilsen, P. (2015). Making sense of implementation theories, models and frameworks. Implementation science : IS10, 53. (Links to an external site.)

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