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Plain Talk: Both quantitative and qualitative research are valid forms of argumentation.


Nursing researchers could learn a lot from Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca’s “The New Rhetoric” (1969), an invaluable treatise on logical argumentation. Here’s my idea:  If we called research ‘argumentation’, the playing field of the quantitative/qualitative battle would be leveled.  The term, ‘research’ has come to glorify quantitative research, which is such a shame, because the best research method is the one that answers the research question.  Given this, quant could be a bad choice.  Pick the wrong method and that study is headed to the paper shredder, not to mention you just forfeited tenure and fame.
If  argumentation became the predominant paradigm under which quantitative and qualitative were considered two different types of logical reasoning (argumentation), we might do away with the stereotypical meanings of ‘research’ as only referring to quantitative analysis.  By the way, argumentation is just another word for logical, critical reasoning.  Anyway, no longer would we tolerate this insane idea that quantitative research trumps qualitative research in regards to rigor.  Where did that come from, anyway?  Well, I’ll tell you.  It came from the Logical Positivist movement, and those rumors about math trumping language still persist.  HOWEVER:  Math and language are both symbols of our thoughts and concepts. It doesn’t matter if the argumentation is quantitative or qualitative in nature.  What matters is that it is logical, coherent, and convincing relative to what else we know about the world.  A truce for the standoff between quantitative and qualitative is found in the concept of argumentation.  

Plain Talk: Orphans are left out of nursing research.  This is not right, nor defensible.

For all that nursing has done through the ages to champion the cause of the poor, for equal health care for all people, and the rights of vulnerable populations for health care, how have orphans been left out of this quest?  I find this absolutely amazing.  The most vulnerable population on earth has been ignored by the nursing profession.

My dissertation research is on child-headed households (orphans who live alone with siblings), and there is no literature authored by nurses.  Okay, maybe a couple of articles.  But not a body of rigorous research.  Research on orphans exists, but it has largely been authored by sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists.

With 153 million orphans in the world how have we, as a profession, managed to ignore them as a whole?  Where  are the nurses who would fight for the rights of legal protection for orphans?  Where are the nurses who would take up the cause of conducting research on the well-being and health of orphans?  Where are the nurses who desire to find ways to improve healthcare access for orphans?  Where are the nurses who would partake in global interdisciplinary collaboratives to ensure the best life for orphans?  Where are the nurses who would find novel ways to prevent orphanhood?  Where are the nurses who would go far away from their home to seek out these children and do it knowing they will never get a paycheck for it?

No one on earth needs good people more  than orphans.  No one on earth deserves healthcare research to improve their lot in life than the most vulnerable:  Parentless children.  Forgotten children.  Street children.  OUR CHILDREN.  Yes, our children.  Because you never know when one of these little ones might become  your child.  One of the children in the photo above is my grandson and and 2 of the little girls are likely  coming soon.  So now you know I have not only a professional stake in the cause of orphans, but also a very personal one.

I think the lack of orphan research in the nursing literature attests to what actually drives our research agenda:  Funding.  My life after PhD (May 2013) is committed to orphan research.  Even if I have to beg you to fund me.

More on this next time.

Why Ben Franklin invented the odometer.

Plain Talk:  Virtuous minds + a hefty dose of curiosity lead to virtuous pursuits that result in relevant scientific discoveries.

Ever wonder how people end up making great scientific discoveries?  I do.  In my studies I’ve come to realize that though we applaud and immortalize the likes of Galileo, Edison, and Einstein, being a genius isn’t the primary factor for infamy.

If you’ve read any biographies of these famous guys, you can’t help but be inspired by their tenacity, their drive to dispel wrong judgments by others (e.g., “learning-disabled”), and their insatiable curiosity about the world.  That’s pretty common knowledge, I’d say.

But have you ever thought about how these traits require their journey be anchored in the quest for truth, for beauty, for what’s right?  Science is inextricably linked to an order of goodness, though we don’t often think of it in those terms.  There is a logic to the universe, and what great scientists do is intentionally decide to spend their time pursuing that logic to discover relationships between phenomena, and bring forth a deeper understanding of the world.  What we do with that knowledge is also steeped in ethical language.  Do we use nuclear knowledge for good or evil?  How do we define good and evil uses of nuclear physics?

I want you to realize that the pursuit of science involves setting aside our drive to satisfy our own gluttony (however defined) and instead means working hard….day in, day out…to make the world a better place.  Hopefully, we enjoy the process as well.  There is something gratifying about pursuing good things.  Good can gratify us very deeply.   Gratifying ourselves superficially and neglecting others in the process is not, in the end, good.  Superficiality of your concept of life and the meaning of ‘good’ will never lead you to making a lasting positive contribution to the world.  For some, that idea of ‘good’ ends in suicide.  You have to get outside yourself to experience the good I refer to.

Beautiful, indelible marks in the world are left by beautiful hearts and minds, and it is a beauty that is shared, that is connected, and serves others in a myriad of ways.  Leave your mark.  Be beautiful.

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