Conceptual Thinking Worksheet Instructions
The purpose of this assignment is to introduce you to the conceptual thinking that goes into theory creation. Remember, all theories start with some kind of interest in the relationships among different ideas. Think of an area of interest to you in nursing. It’s okay to think broadly at first (for example, you might think, “I’m interested in heart disease,” or “I’m passionate about community mental health,” but then start to narrow your thinking. What, specifically, intrigues you—as a question, or perhaps a problem you’d like to solve? Remember, we frame our ideas and communicate about our ideas by naming them. These named ideas are called concepts.
Complete the sentence describing your interest in the relationship between two separate and specific concepts:
I am interested in the relationship between ___________ and ____________.
Notice in the following EXAMPLES that the concepts vary widely from concrete, specific, and measurable to more abstract, subjective, and intangible. Don’t worry about that right now (we will get to abstract and concrete definitions later). Notice, also, that the concepts are expressed in one word, or in a short phrase. Start with identifying two concepts that are meaningful to you.
Examples that might be placed into the above sentence.
Smoking and anxiety
Parental caregiving and neonatal weight gain
HgA1C and a vegan diet
Nursing presence and PTSD
Vaccination rates and community outreach programs
Write a three to four-sentence context paragraph that explains why you are interested in these two particular concepts. Can you see that the relationship between these two concepts represents your curiosity/question/problem of interest? This is the beginning of theoretical thinking. Your paragraph should be in your own words. Do not use quotes from the literature.
Your paragraph should include: the context where you see these concepts (e.g., critical care, in-patient acute care, patient’s home, the community), how prevalent/important you believe the concepts are, and what outcomes might be changed if we understood the relationship between your two concepts better.
Major outbreaks of measles have occurred in the past two years in high-risk communities with low vaccination rates. The importance of specific and tailored community outreach educational programs delivered by knowledgeable healthcare providers cannot be underestimated. Understanding the best way to reach at-risk communities with relevant outreach and education will help to increase vaccination rates and decrease the risk of measles epidemics.
List the metaparadigm assumptions that serve as a foundation for your interest in the two concepts. Understanding your assumptions within the metaparadigm concepts of nursing helps ground you in the foundation of your discipline. In other words, you are interested in these ideas as a nurse scholar because these are the essential areas of study for nursing. For example, nurses are interested in HgA1C as an empirical indicator of health and we are interested in how a person’s environment supports their management of diabetes as well. Do you see the point here? We, as nurses, are always integrating person, environment, health, and nursing in our approach to healthcare. The purpose of assignments like this is to help us separate, analyze, and define.
I assume that persons ________.
I assume that nurses (or nursing) _________.
I assume that the environment ________.
I assume that health ___________.
Examples of assumptions based on previous examples of concepts in Part 1:
I assume that persons experience anxiety in stressful situations.
I assume that nurses are supportive of parental caregiving.
I assume that HgA1C is a reliable indicator of physiological health for a person with diabetes.
I assume that the community environment affects vaccination rates.
Take each of your two concepts and develop an abstract, concrete, and operational definition.
The abstract definition gives the meaning of the term as an idea without physical form.
Example: Anxiety is the presence of an uncomfortable mental state associated with a feeling of hypervigilance and fear.
The concrete definition gives physical form and direct experience related to a particular experience. Think – how would I recognize this idea in reality if I saw it?
Example: Anxiety is the combined physical experience of restlessness, elevated heart rate, and altered concentration
The operational definition states how the concept will be measured. Your operational definition can include physiological measures (but, it doesn’t have to), pen/paper or created measures than aim to translate an experience from perception to a measurable form (like the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale or an instrument that measures Job Satisfaction), or some other measure—something you can count (like the number of clinic appointments that a patient keeps). You are allowed to invent a measurement instrument for this purpose.
Example: Anxiety can be measured by pulse rate, statements of perceived inability to concentrate, and perceived inability to relax (an example of a pencil and paper measurement instrument might be a “Perceived Anxiety Scale”).
Write a short proposition/relational statement that demonstrates what you might hypothesize about the relationship between the two concepts. Notice that each of the example statements includes the words “associated with” and a direction of the association—increased, low, lower, more likely.
A high level of anxiety is associated with increased smoking.
Lack of competence with parental caregiving is associated with low neonatal weight gain.
Regular consumption of a vegan diet is associated with lower HgA1C levels.
Communities with well-developed outreach programs are more likely to have higher vaccination rates.
Congratulations! You have just experienced and communicated as a conceptual/theoretical thinker! For more information on Conceptual Thinking see this: https://www.britannica.com/topic/concept-formation/Age-and-conceptual-behaviour
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