The contribution of research-based master’s theses to knowledge building in nursing

Ragnhild Hellesø, May Solveig Fagermoen


Purpose: The purpose was to investigate the topics and method applied in research-based master's theses in nursing science.

Methods: A total of 694 research-based master’s theses produced in a period of 30 years representing the entire period of a university programme in nursing science were examined. We used an explorative design with a deductive-inductive approach.

Results: The master’s theses covered a variety of topics, ranging from basic theoretical and methodological issues to topics in clinical research, education and leadership. Four main themes were addressed: patient studies, practice studies, nursing education, and nursing management and leadership. Qualitative methods using interviews and some observations were the preferred approach. For those who used quantitative methods, surveys and a few quasi-experiments were identified. Nurses’ responsibility for providing high-quality and safe care is a fundamental issue in nursing science. When great changes in health care alter the conditions for reaching this aim, we identified that master’s students want to investigate the consequences for patients and nursing care. The fact that few students addressed education and leadership is worrying. It might affect the quality of education. Furthermore, one may question how nurses can be visionary and take a leading role, which is stated to be important in the literature, in developing future health and nursing care.

Conclusions: Our study uncovered the importance of investigating research-based master’s theses because it provides a basis for reflection on topics that need to be emphasised in the future.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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