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theories, assumes that the behaviour of humans is a result of differing groups endeavouring to promote their interests at the cost to less powerful groups of individuals. Denzin and Lincoln (2005) endorse the critical and interpretive perspectives within qualitative designs but acknowledge that seeking out a single definition of qualitative research is neither useful nor appropriate. They express: “The open ended nature of the qualitative research project leads to a perpetual resistance against attempts to impose a single umbrella like paradigm over the entire project” (p. xv).

Conversely, quantitative research adopts the approach that in order to understand a phenomenon it is necessary to quantify it, reduce it to numbers and utilise methods, such as precise measurement or testing of hypotheses. It is associated with the positivist perspective, which supports an objective approach to reduce bias and seeks out facts not sentiment (Gillis & Jackson, 2002). The empirico-analytical paradigm informs this scientific method with philosophical tenets that include reducing the phenomenon to parts to explain and predict how they function. Quantification is used to translate the data gathered by this type of research into numerical data. The processes used also rely on objective observation within a value free context (Fossey, Harvey, McDermott, & Davidson, 2002).

Researchers studying clinical nurse leadership have successfully used both quantitative and qualitative methods. I consider both approaches to be useful, depending on the objective of the research, the method of data collection and the intended benefits and scientific value to the existing body of knowledge. Onweugbuzie (2000) encourages both quantitative and qualitative purists to “strive for epistemological ecumenicalism by using mixed methodological approaches” (p. 3). There is usefulness in combining numerical objective data with personal subjective data and adding a critical lens to a response. However, whilst supporting Onweugbuzie’s stance, I chose to pursue my inquiry in a study based on the principles of action research, because my initial intention was to assist CNLs in their work. Hope and Waterman (2002) acknowledge that other forms of research also set out to improve situations but they suggest that action research may be viewed as valid as it attempts to improve social situations.


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