Nursing Research Methods: Article Critique Essay

Title: Factors related to academic success among nursing students: A descriptive correlational research study

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Samina Iqbal Kanji

The article under critique is a quantitative research study titled as “Factors related to academic success among nursing students: A descriptive correlational research study”; published in the year 2013. I will be critiquing this article according to the provided guideline. Title of the study under concern is unambiguous, thus capturing the population and phenomenon of interest. Additionally, the abstract is structured and is providing information under separate headings.

The problem:

The described problem is of great importance to nursing, because increased nursing shortage is posing a threat to the health industry in terms of competency and quality of care by the nursing staff. The researcher has critically analyzed the significance in terms of the relation between the academic success and its effects on the replacement of existing nursing staff The purpose of the research has been explained and the study will fulfill its purpose by providing an insight to the nursing education system to bring changes in curricula for improved results. As prior knowledge about the variables has already been discussed with other students therefore to precede the level of inquiry a quantitative approach is used as the purpose is to know about the correlations. There was no operational definition mentioned explicitly about the research variables; however their correlation with academic success has been given in other contexts. There was no explicit problem statement present in the introduction; however, linkages were made following the broad to narrow approach. Thus, provide an insight in to the nursing practice. The researcher has acknowledged the limitations of the study in terms of sample bias, low generalizability and different results at times due to the spiritual component. There were no explicit assumptions described; however one can infer from the introduction that giving an answer to the factors affecting academic success can in long run help in combat the effects of nursing shortage.

Review of the literature:

The review provided in the study was comprehensive, logical and critically analyzed, hence gave sequential information ranging from the admission of the nursing students, factors important for their academic success, associations between different factors and academic success and finally the itch of the study i-e correlation of factors with academic success of nursing students. The relationship of the literature review to the research purpose is unambiguously evident by using a funnel approach. In addition, most of the references were taken from the year 1982-2012. Those with old references were explicitly supported by their presence in the latest literature. The review consists of almost all of the theoretical work, though if empirical support could have made this review stronger. Besides, almost all of the researches were from primary sources and were paraphrased adequately. The information provided in the review clearly gives a way for conducting a new research; moreover, researcher has also acknowledged this gap at the end of the literature review i-e there is a gap of researches done for the improvement of academic success of nursing students.

Protection of human rights:

The proposed study has been designed to lessen the effects of issues occurring as a result of nursing shortage i-e decreased quality of care, decreased number of competent nurses, and increased rates of nursing student’s turnover. Besides, the results of this study will not only affect the whole health care system, but it will affect the professional growth and academic success of individual nursing student. The evidence of voluntary informed consent has been mentioned explicitly that was sent to participants via electronic medium. There was no evidence present explicitly for coercion. As the sampling was done conveniently, therefore, participants were not invited during periods of high stress; rather they were asked to fill the research questioners in their own time. There was no way to identify about the identities of study participants as their data was incorporated anonymously on survey monkey software and also provided with numerical codes.. There is an explicit evidence of study review by Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Theoretical/conceptual Framework:

The researcher has not acknowledged the use of any theoretical / conceptual framework. According to Burns and Grove (2010), descriptive studies do not require any theoretical framework as the purpose is still to explore and describe phenomenon. The researcher may have conceptualized by looking the effects of different variable on the academic success. According to Burns and Grove (2010), at times elementary concepts about the variables make the conceptual frameworks and are present at the start of the study but are not acknowledge by the researcher and are referred as implicit frameworks. The research problem flows from the background knowledge. Concepts such as nursing shortage, student attrition, and academic success are briefly described.


The researcher has not stated hypothesis explicitly. However, there absence is justified in Polit and Beck (2012) that the purpose of descriptive correlational design is to describe the nature and relation between different variables and hypothesis generation; rather than concluding about casualty. However, on the other hand, Coughlan, Cronin and Ryan (2007) suggest that correlational designs approaches the relationship either via hypothesis testing of answering research question. But, researcher has not explicitly mentioned about his study research question also which could be a negative critique. Academic success in this study serves as the dependent variable, however emotional intelligence; psychological empowerment; resilience; and spiritual wellbeing plays the part of independent variables respectively. As it as a non-experimental design, therefore predictions can’t be made about the intervention or control group.


The researcher wants to generalize the study findings to all the nursing students, and has described it well. The target population is appropriate according to the research problem and resource limitation, as it would have been very difficult to cater all nursing students keeping in mind the cost constraints, human, and material resources. The researcher has clearly defined the selection process that is convenient sampling and snowballing via professors of the universities. The sampling method used fits very well with the level of inquiry and research design. This point was supported by Polit and Beck (2012) that in descriptive correlational studies; the purpose is to explore the initial relationships between variables without knowing about the conclusions therefore, self-selection or convenient sampling methods are use. Moreover, as the researcher is unaware about the existence of relationship in nursing students therefore choosing this sampling strategy would be cost effective. There are no potential sampling biases explicitly described in the study. However, according to Rebecca (2010) one of the limitation of convenient sampling is selection bias itself, therefore potential biases could have been existed. The researcher has used power analysis to calculate sample size. However, according to Rebecca (2010), the acceptable standard for calculating power analysis is alpha 0.05, moderate effect size, and power of 0.80. The researcher has used very small power therefore; sample is not sufficiently large to generalize it to the whole population. The generalizations can be made cautiously to the nursing students. There were no control groups present, however, exclusion criteria is used to ensure a representative sample. There is no evidence of minimizing sampling error; yet if large sample size was used then it could have been minimized.

Research Design:

The design used for this study is a non-experimental design named as “descriptive correlational study”. This design comes under the category of level II studies and according to Rebecca (2010), correlational studies are used when the researcher wants to answer about the relationship between the variables whose nature has been described either by prior researches or literature synthesis. After going through the article and other literatures, researcher has selected an appropriate study design. One could say that researchers have already been done on students in addressing the relationship of this variable as the researcher acknowledged its absence in nursing students therefore it was a wise decision because stressors could be different for students with different programs. There is no discussion about the effects of extraneous variables and their control, however he has discussed the application of regression to analyses unique predictors however he was not successful with the regression models. The information provided in this study can permit the study replication in other nursing universities. Moreover, as this was a religious university, therefore replicating the research in non-religious universities could give better understanding about the relationship between spiritual wellbeing and academic success.

Data Collection:

The data collection instruments used by the researcher were Mayer–Salovey–Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), Spreitzer Psychological Empowerment Scale, Wagnild and Young Resilience Scale, the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS), and the background information of the participants. There were selection reason described, they are explained sufficiently. The research instrument by their characteristics showed congruency with the research question.. The researcher has described the use of different types of validity (face, content, discriminant, incremental, convergent) for each of the instruments where possible. Moreover, to ensure the reliability, the researcher has run reliability coefficients. According to Polit and Beck (2012), ensuring the validity and reliability of an instrument is important for the quality and results accuracy of the study results. The results of these tests of validity and reliability are enough for their usage as they are analyzed for both showing stronger correlations separately. Since the reliabilities of the instruments were stronger ranging from 0.85 to 0.91 respectively and they were valid; therefore they were suitable to for use with the study sample keeping in mind the four factors to be analyzed via them.

Quantitative Analysis:

The researcher has used descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations, and percentages) and Pearson’s correlation using the PASW statistics 18 to analyze the data. According to Coughlan, Cronin and Ryan (2007), descriptive studies results are analyzed via descriptive statistics. Moreover, according to Polit and Beck (2012), correlation between two variables is described through correlation procedures mainly through correlation coefficient. Therefore, the analysis methods fit with both the level of inquiry a research design. The level of measurement in this study for all variables is quantitative ratio in nature. According to Polit and Beck (2012), Pearson’s correlation coefficient are used when the variable under study either belong to interval or ratio level of measurement. The link between the data analysis and findings has been made clear unambiguously by the researcher. Moreover, the researcher has used Pearson correlation(r) and p value to show the degree of relationship and statistical analysis for each variable, and described them very clearly altogether to show the relationship logically. At times researcher has gone beyond the data to interpret the result, for example in measuring emotional intelligence; the researcher has analyzed the differences between graduate and undergraduate students by the type of stressors. The statistical result is very well presented in the text but numerical presentation could have been better in the form of showing all results and statistics altogether. The provided results by correlation coefficient and p value are giving enough evidence about the correctness of the results. There were no graphical displays shown by the researcher, however according to Polit and Beck (2012), correlation relationships can be shown through scatter plots.

Conclusions and recommendations:

The results of the data analysis were unambiguously explained in terms of the research purpose for undergraduate and graduate students separately. Through this the reader can make decisions about the correlation between different factors affecting academic success easily. The generalization of these findings can be questionable due to small sample size and convenient nature of the design, thus posing a threat to external validity. The results of the findings can indirectly affect our patients as such factors could lead to student’s retention thereby welcoming more qualified nurses to provide competent care to the patients. There are no risk identified by the study findings; however, such results could provide an insight to the nursing educators in renewing the curriculum to bring positive long-term results. In the discussion section; the researcher has given recommendation in the light of literature and study findings for improving teaching strategies. Moreover, future researches for academic planning has also been proposed, however no such discussion has been made about nursing practice. Though the study needs cautious generalizations in terms of small sample size, still can give insight for replication, experimental studies for future policy making


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American psychological association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

Burns, N., & Grove, S. K. (2010). Understanding nursing research: Building an evidence-based practice. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Coughlan, M., Cronin, P., & Ryan, F. (2007). Step-by-step guide to critiquing research.

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Keele, R. (2010). Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

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nursing practice (9th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins