The power of the word: some post-structural considerations of qualitative approaches in nursing research

J Adv Nurs. 1998 Aug;28(2):339-44. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1998.00780.x.


This paper takes a post-structural position to discuss some issues related to the use of qualitative research methodologies in nursing research. Two fundamental assumptions which underpin qualitative approaches are explored in relation to how subjectivity is constructed in the process of data collection. These assumptions reveal an ideological position which proposes that reality can be apprehended by capturing the individual's point of view (subjectivity) and that qualitative researchers can directly represent this lived experience in language (linguistic representation). Post-structural approaches challenge these assumptions which are often an uncritically accepted part of the common sense world and therefore taken to be natural. It proposes that these views of subjectivity and language are not natural but rather cultural. There is a recognition of the wider sociopolitical and historical context in which nursing research takes place and a displacement of normative constructions of subjectivity. It provides nursing with the possibility of challenging existing power structures which determine the individual's experiences of health and illness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Communication*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / standards
  • Philosophy, Nursing*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design / standards*
  • Semantics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires