Although the pragmatic implications for observational research in nursing are profound, these techniques are underused. In this article the methods of ethology, or the systematic detailed study of behavior. and its application to clinical nursing research are described. The authors suggest that ethology may be used to explore behavior in cognitively impaired, elderly patients. psychiatric patients, and infants. The authors also suggest that ethology is suited for examining subconscious or transitory phenomena, such as painresponses, that are unsuited to self-report methods.