Theoretical Coalescence: A Method to Develop Qualitative Theory

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Abstract

Background

Qualitative research is frequently context bound, lacks generalizability, and is limited in scope.

Objectives

The purpose of this article was to describe a method, theoretical coalescence, that provides a strategy for analyzing complex, high-level concepts and for developing generalizable theory. Theoretical coalescence is a method of theoretical expansion, inductive inquiry, of theory development, that uses data (rather than themes, categories, and published extracts of data) as the primary source for analysis. Here, using the development of the lay concept of enduring as an example, I explore the scientific development of the concept in multiple settings over many projects and link it within the Praxis Theory of Suffering.

Methods

As comprehension emerges when conducting theoretical coalescence, it is essential that raw data from various different situations be available for reinterpretation/reanalysis and comparison to identify the essential features of the concept. The concept is then reconstructed, with additional inquiry that builds description, and evidence is conducted and conceptualized to create a more expansive concept and theory.

Results

By utilizing apparently diverse data sets from different contexts that are linked by certain characteristics, the essential features of the concept emerge. Such inquiry is divergent and less bound by context yet purposeful, logical, and with significant pragmatic implications for practice in nursing and beyond our discipline.

Conclusion

Theoretical coalescence is a means by which qualitative inquiry is broadened to make an impact, to accommodate new theoretical shifts and concepts, and to make qualitative research applied and accessible in new ways.

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