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Using observational research to obtain a picture of nursing practice
  1. Alison Twycross1,
  2. Allison Shorten2
  1. 1Department of Children's Nursing, London South Bank University, London, UK
  2. 2Yale School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to : Alison Twycross
    , Department of Children's Nursing, London South Bank University, London, UK; a.twycross{at}

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Observational studies often draw on the principles of ethnography. Ethnographic approaches to data collection were first used in anthropology and involve describing a culture and learning about the ‘native's point of view’.1 ,2 To gain an understanding of the culture being examined, the researcher is immersed in the field collecting data over a prolonged period of time, often for a year or more. Sometimes time constraints mean it is not possible to undertake a prolonged period of data collection nor is this always appropriate. However, to gain an understanding of what is happening in practice, adopting some of the principles of ethnography can be useful. (N.B. cohort, cross-sectional and case-control studies are also described as observational studies in the scientific literature. These specific methodologies are not within the scope of this paper).

Why are observational studies needed in nursing?

When using questionnaires and interviews sometimes …

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