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Author: Gerard Kenny
Date: April 2012
Journal: Nurse Researcher
Issue: Volume 19, Number 3
Keywords: Heuristic inquiry, transformative potential, process, transdisciplinarity
Aim: This paper is intended to introduce Moustakas’s heuristic method to a wider nursing research audience. It is aimed at identifying the main principles that underpin this approach, and outlining the processes and structure that this form of inquiry might take.
Background: Heurism is a generic term that encapsulates a way of thinking and exploring that is shared by such diverse disciplines as computer programming, mathematics and philosophy. All these disciplines at some point require an understanding of the process that comprises the experience of discovery that pre-empts the formulation of a hypothesis.
Review methods: The heuristic method is critically reviewed and its strengths are identified. The discourse offered by post-modernism, which challenges some of the method’s main principles, is explored and potential solutions offered.
Discussion: This paper highlights how research questions that are heuristic in origin can create conditions that offer the possibility for change in the researcher. It explores how the internal change that occurs in the researcher can be a catalyst for deeper appreciation of the question under investigation and how this personal transformation can be relevant for practice and research.
Conclusion: Nursing practice and research are ideally placed to engage with questions that emerge heuristically from our experience.
Implications for research/practice: Moustakas’s method gives practitioners and researchers the opportunity to explore internal and personal questions. It suggests that the personal nature of these questions can contribute to the contexts and environments in which care and research take place.
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