Postmodern and Poststructural Approaches to Nursing Research


Julianne Cheek

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    We hear and read the terms postmodern and poststructural with increasing frequency in the nursing and health care arenas. Yet their increased usage has not necessarily meant that these terms are well understood, nor that their potential for contributing to research endeavors in the health field is recognized. This was one of the reasons I decided to embark on writing a book such as this. I wanted to show that postmodern and poststructural approaches to research do not have to be obscure, ambiguous or poorly understood. Rather, I believe that some of the criticism of these approaches in terms of their inaccessibility and unintelligibility stems from a lack of definition or even at times the poor scholarship with which they are used and discussed.

    Secondly, I had experienced both rejection of papers I had prepared for journals, and difficulty in attracting funding for research using these approaches. This led me to question why this was so. What assumptions were being made about research and scholarship that seemed to preclude writing and researching within these frameworks? Was the rejection of a paper, for example, based on what it said, how it said it, what it didn't say and/or assumptions about what it should say? Much of the discussion to follow in this book shares with readers my exploration of such questions and where it has led me.

    The book makes no claim to providing definitive answers about either these issues or postmodern and poststructural approaches. Rather, it provides a beginning point from which readers can embark on their own journey of exploration of the potential afforded nursing and health care by these approaches.

    I have attempted to write the book in an accessible and user-friendly way. I hope that you, the reader, are able to engage with the material and that the further readings suggested assist you to develop your understandings of postmodern and poststructural research approaches. Use the book as a “critical friend” in your journey of exploration.


    I would like to acknowledge, with thanks, the role that the following people have played in the production of this book:

    • The Faculty of Nursing, University of South Australia, for supporting this project.
    • Julie Henderson, who has provided research assistance throughout the entire creation of the book. She has been meticulous in assisting with referencing, gaining permissions, editing manuscripts, proofreading and obtaining seemingly unobtainable references!
    • Melanie Tucker, who has provided backup research assistance. Her proofreading skills have also been greatly appreciated, particularly at the final stages of the project.
    • Irene Doskatsch, who has provided, and continues to provide, outstanding assistance in the library.
    • Sage (London), Blackwell Science Asia, Allen & Unwin, The Advertiser and The University of South Australia for granting permission to use material in various sections of the book.
    • The three anonymous reviewers who provided important and useful feedback on the first draft of the manuscript.
    • Finally, sincere thanks to my family for their forebearance in the light of tight deadlines and broken wrists!
  • Appendix A: University of South Australia/Australian Research Council

    Application for ARC Small Grant (Initial or Renewal) and University of South Australia Research Development Grant in 1996 When completing this form, please refer to the enclosed guidelines. Applications should not be handwritten. Original plus seven (7) copies must be lodged by the relevant closing date with the:

    Research Administrative Officer

    Research Office

    University of South Australia

    The Levels

    • Please indicate ‘✓’ in the relevant box below:

    • If your application is for an ARC Small Grant, please indicate in the box whether your application is: Initial — I or Renewal — R

    • Please indicate in the box the panel number(s) of the most appropriate panel(s) by which your application will be assessed:

    • Project title:
    • Total funds requested:

    • Chief Investigators (see Guidelines)

    • Key Words — Give up to three Key Words to describe the subject area of this proposal:

    • Summary of Project

      Write a summary, in no more than eight lines, intelligible to a lay reader, of the aims of the research, the expected outcomes and the overall significance. Do not use quotation marks. (Each line allows 54 characters including spaces)

    • Support

    • Work Experiments

    • Chief Investigator Information

      If any Chief Investigator is associated with a Special Research Centre or Cooperative Research Centre, supporting documentation is required.

      For each Chief Investigator, indicate the following:

      • Source of salary and % from each source

      • Other major research programs being undertaken or supervised by the Chief Investigator

    • Budget Information

      Financial Summary

    • Total support for this project or a closely related project

    • Total support for all other projects

    • Commencement/Completion day of project

    • Certification - to be signed by all applicants
    • Certification by Head of School
    • Certification by Director of Centre (CRC, Key, Special) if appropriate for ARC Small Grants only.
    • Aims, research plan, justification of budget, and publications

    Appendix B: Results Phase 1-Quantitative Analysis of Data

    Table 1 Type of Print Media

    Table 2 Year of Publication

    Table 3 Month of Publication

    Table 4 Day of publication

    Table 5 Visual Material

    Table 6 Position in the Paper/Magazine

    Table 7 Page number by Media type

    Table 8 Position of Article on Page

    Article Prominence

    Table 10 Headline Size

    Table 11 Style of Print used for Headline

    Table 12 Headline in Bold

    Table 13 Content of Headlines

    Table 14 Topic of Article

    Table 15 Content of Lead Sentence

    Table 16 Tone of the Article

    Table 17 Headline Tone

    Table 18 Sources Quoted in Article

    Table 19 Sources-Social Position

    Table 20 Relationship to Other Printed Material

    Theoretical or Practical?

    Table 22 Theoretical or Practical Focus by Media Type

    Table 23 Type of Audience pitched at

    Table 24 Responsibility for Toxic Shock Syndrome

    Table 25 Responsibility for Toxic Shock by Year

    Table 26 Subtextual themes by year


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    About the Author

    Professor Julianne Cheek is internationally recognised for her expertise in qualitative research in health related areas. She is currently Dean of the Research Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia and Director of the Centre for Research into Nursing and Health Care, which is a university designated and funded performance-based research centre. She has experienced outstanding success in attracting funding for qualitative research projects, with some sixteen projects funded in the past four years. She has also attracted large sums of funding for projects related to teaching that have qualitative principles embedded within them.

    Professor Cheek has published over 40 refereed book chapters and journal articles, many of which explore the application of postmodern and poststructural approaches to health care. One of the books she coauthored (Society and Health) won the prize for the Tertiary Single Book (wholly Australian) in the 1996 Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing. She has presented more than 40 papers at international and national conferences, including keynote addresses in Vancouver, Canada; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Queensland, Australia.

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