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Situation-Specific Theories: Philosophical Roots, Properties, and Approach

Im, Eun-Ok, RN, MPH, PhD; Meleis, Afaf Ibrahim, PhD, DrPS (hon), FAAN

Global Health and Nursing Practice

It is imperative to further develop theoretical bases in nursing, which incorporate diversities and complexities in nursing phenomena, and which consider sociopolitical, cultural, and historic contexts of nursing encounters. Situation-specific theories are proposed in this work as a future direction of such theoretical bases in nursing. Philosophical roots and properties of situation-specific theories are discussed, and an integrative approach to developing this type of theories is suggested. Situation-specific theories could be based on the assumptions of post-empiricism, critical social theory and feminism, and or hermeneutics. Six properties of situation-specific theories are presented: (1) low level of abstraction, (2) reflection of specific nursing phenomena, (3) context, (4) connection to research and/or practice, (5) incorporation of diversities, and (6) limits in generalization. The proposed integrative approach to developing situation-specific theories includes (1) a nursing perspective, (2) a linkage among theory, research, and practice, and (3) a conceptual scheme based on internal and external dialogues.

Assistant Professor; Department of Health Maintenance, School of Nursing; University of Wisconsin; Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Im)

Professor; Department of Community Health Systems; University of California; San Francisco, California (Meleis)

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