Trends in nursing ethics research: Mapping the literature production

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Abstract

Background:

There have been a number of debates in the field of nursing ethics. Researchers have focused on various aspects of nursing ethics, such as professional ethics, professional, nursing and ethical values. Within this research, a variety of literature reviews have been conducted, but to the best of our knowledge, bibliometric mapping has not yet been used.

Objective:

This article aims to analyse the production of literature within nursing ethics research.

Research design:

In order to examine publishing patterns, we focused on publishing dynamics, prolific research entities and the most-cited articles. We additionally visualised the content of the literature using a novel mixed-method approach, combining bibliometric analysis and mapping with thematic analysis.

Ethical considerations:

In our study, ethical review was not required.

Findings:

A total of 1416 information sources were found in the Scopus database. Overall, literature production has increased; however, in recent years, the quantity of published material has begun to decrease. The most prolific countries are the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, and the most prolific source titles are Nursing Ethics, Journal of Advanced Nursing and Nursing Times. Lately, research in the field of nursing ethics has been focused more on life care (providing for the basic needs of older residents), moral distress and community nursing.

Discussion:

The dynamics of research literature production showed an exponential rise in the number of published information sources – a rise which started in the period between 1974 and 1998. Since that period, the trend has stabilised, which might indicate that nursing ethics research is starting a transition to a mature phase.

Conclusion:

The innovative use of bibliometric analysis and mapping, together with thematic analysis, is a useful tool for analysis of research production in the field of nursing ethics. The results presented can be an excellent starting point for literature reviews and more exhaustive data, information and knowledge seeking.

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