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Misconceptions of positivism and five unnecessary science theoretic mistakes they bring in their train

Publiceringsår: 2010
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 651-661
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: International journal of nursing studies
Volym: 47
Nummer: 5
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: Elsevier



Positivism is sometimes rejected for the wrong reasons. Influential textbooks on nursing research and in other disciplines tend to reinforce the misconceptions underlying these rejections. This is problematic, since it provides students of these disciplines with a poor basis for making epistemological and methodological decisions. It is particularly common for positivist views on reality and causation to be obscured.

Objectives and design

The first part of this discussion paper identifies and explains the misconceptions about positivism as they appear in two influential textbooks. The second part pinpoints five mistakes these misconceptions easily result in when the researcher adopts an epistemological and methodological standpoint.

What is already known about the topic?

There are several impeccable descriptions of positivism in nursing research literature; but a relatively large number of inaccurate or confused views of positivism appear in the nursing research literature as well. Mistakes of the kind identified in this paper have been noted before—for instance, in Shadish (1995).

What this paper adds:

This paper provides a detailed analysis of two particularly common and influential misconceptions about positivism. It traces the historical roots of these misconceptions and characterizes them more carefully than many earlier attempts have done. The paper shows how and why these misconceptions affect epistemological and methodological decisions negatively, regardless of one’s interest in positivism.


  • Nursing
  • Philosophy
  • explanation
  • reality
  • epistemology
  • methodology
  • ontology
  • positivism
  • metaphysics
  • cause



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