Theory Development and Evaluation

Theory Development and Evaluation

Examine the science and art of theory development and evaluation.

Submission Instructions:

  • Your initial post should be at least 500 words, formatted and cited in the current APA style with support from at least 2 academic sources.
  • All replies must be constructive and use literature where possible.

Theory Development and Evaluation 

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Theory Development and Evaluation

Different nursing theories play important role in guiding nursing practice. Theories are referred to as systems of ideas that often try to explain specific things or phenomena (Butts & Rich, 2017). Theories may follow a particular structure that can be used to analyze art or texts. Besides, theories are normally used for a certain course of action. For instance, Orem’s self-care deficit theory justifies actions that encourage patients to remain independent. Nurses need to gain a deeper understanding of the development and evaluation of nursing theories (Butts & Rich, 2017). In that regard, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the art and science of theory development and evaluation.

The science and art behind theory development involve a three-structural model known as the C-T-E (the conceptual model (C)-theory (T)-empirical) model. The three components of the conceptual-theoretical-empirical (C-T-E) structure. According to Butts & Rich (2017), theory development studies often proceed from the conceptual model directly to the empirical research methods and the data gathered is analyzed creating generalizations.

Therefore, theory development entails a situation whereby inductive reasoning based on a specific concept is tested through research, and results are analyzed to produce a theoretical model (Butts & Rich, 2017). Therefore, a theory is generated by accumulating scientific evidence with rigorous research to either refute or support the proposed statements. The theory is accomplished through research, leading to an explanatory, descriptive, or predictive theory.

According to Smith (2019), the theory begins in the mind based on what theorists have learned or observed from other people. From what they observed or learned, they develop hypotheses based on those concepts. They conduct research or observations to produce empirical data. Then make generalizations or deductions from the results, and eventually come up with a theory. Theories often emerge in concert with other theories rather than being totally independent. Theorists often rely on published observations of others (the research literature), which they think are in line with their thoughts (Smith, 2019). Sometimes theory development entails additional research to find the answer to a question.

Theory evaluation involves several steps to ensure every aspect of the theory is valid and reliable. Evaluation begins with the CTE structure to ensure a sufficient amount of information was used to construct it. It also looks at the clarity of the connections between the conceptual model, theory, and empirical indicators (Butts & Rich, 2017). The second step is the evaluation of the theory, which assesses the utility of the theory for a specific purpose.

Theory evaluation involves judging its value or validity.  Evaluating a theory may also involve determining its dependence on facts. Empirical research methods evaluation determines the operational adequacy of the empirical indicators. According to Smith (2019), the empirical indicators should be valid and reliable. Evaluation can cover different aspects of the theory, for instance, its dependence on established theories, simplicity, and internal and external consistency.

In summary, this paper discussed the art and science of theory development and evaluation in nursing. Nursing theories have a central role in guiding nursing practice. Since advanced practice nursing tends to focus on nursing theories to improve practice, advanced practice nurses must have an in-depth understanding of the concept of theory development and evaluation. The C-T-E (the conceptual model (C)-theory (T)-empirical) model can be used to guide the process of theory development and evaluation.


Butts, J. B., & Rich, K. L. (2017). Philosophies and Theories for Advanced Nursing Practice. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Smith, M. C. (2019). Nursing theories and nursing practice. FA Davis.