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Course Credit

Half Course


Sept. - Dec.
Tues afternoon

Course Coordinator

P. Strachan
Ext. 26157 or




Registration in the Nursing PhD Program or Permission of Course Coordinator

All PhD (Nursing) students are required to take this course on entry. Students who have completed NUR 700* as one of the required half courses at the MSc level are required to take an additional half course at the PhD level. Students who have completed NUR 700* as an M in addition to their minimum course requirement (i.e. as a sixth course) at the MSc level may request that this course be credited to their PhD requirements at the time of their transfer to the PhD Program.


HRM 700

NUR 700: Philosophical Basis of Nursing


This course will explore, in seminar format, paradigms for clinical nursing research by examining the philosophical basis for development of clinically relevant knowledge. Topics will include: history of the separation of science from religion, natural from social sciences; basic tenets of the scientific method; critiques of modern/positivistic thinking (social construction of knowledge); assumptions of qualitative and quantitative research paradigms; and generation of clinically relevant knowledge.

Course Purpose

This required course will introduce the PhD student to the philosophical basis of developing knowledge.


This half-course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore various paradigms for research and knowledge development relevant to nursing. A multiplicity of research approaches is required to examine the broad social and biological determinants of health; the importance of cultural influences on health and on relationships with health care providers; and the central focus of nursing on personal responses to health states.  In a dialogic seminar format, students will be introduced to relevant philosophical arguments regarding the development of scientific knowledge and will consider these in light of the research questions most pertinent to the practice of nursing and to understanding the experience of health and illness.

Introductory sessions will focus on the basis of inquiry from an historical perspective; the separation of body from mind; science from religion; and the physical or natural sciences from the social sciences. Students will be introduced to the language of philosophy of science and to the ideas of selected philosophers. Inductive and deductive reasoning, verification, refutation, empiricism, prediction, objectivity and subjectivity will be considered.

During the first half of the course, students will have an opportunity to consider these basic notions (e.g., forms of reasoning, verification, etc.) as they apply to various models of the development of knowledge.  Logical positivism, Popper's notion of refutation and Kuhn's concept of paradigm shifts will be considered. The commonly accepted rules of empiricism, prediction and "good science" will be considered, as discussed by various authors. The development of empiricism and 20th century modernism will be examined in this section of the course.

In the second half of the course students will be introduced to post-modern critiques of empiricism and positivist thinking. Problems with the received view of scientific reasoning are highlighted, and attempts to remedy them, evaluated. Students will explore in more depth views on the differentiation between human and natural sciences and will discuss implications for the development of a science for nursing.  The interpretive paradigm for knowledge development will be explored with a focus on phenomenology, interpretive theory, critical theory and other epistemological stances for qualitative inquiry based on students’ interests. Complexity science and its implications for nursing research will be considered

Students will each present one seminar during which they critically examine the underlying assumptions of various paradigms of inquiry and their related methodologies

Students will each present one seminar during which they will critically examine the underlying assumptions of various paradigms of inquiry and their related methodologies.

Class Format and Schedule

Seminar dialogues will be facilitated for three hours per week for one term. Guest experts will enrich the dialogue when appropriate and feasible.

Course Requirements and Evaluation Methods

A. Requirements

Students are expected to:

  • Participate in critical discussion during the weekly seminars, having prepared for the session by reading the recommended material as provided in the course manual.
  • Prepare a critical annotated bibliography based on six to eight readings that are NOT from the required reading list, but may be from the supplementary reading list. Students are to consider literature that addresses the philosophical basis of science in general or that addresses the philosophical underpinnings of nursing science.
  • Prepare a major paper (no longer than 20 pages, excluding bibliography, figures and tables) which discusses the philosophical basis of research from a particular point of view (e.g., logical positivism) and which analyses and criticizes the arguments for this viewpoint.  It is acceptable to analyze the evolution of different models of inquiry and their relevance for the developing state of nursing knowledge. The topic for the paper will be selected in negotiation with the course facilitator.
  • Prepare and conduct one seminar discussion on a topic related to the philosophy of science. Students will distribute objectives for the seminar and copies of readings one week prior to the seminar date to enable seminar participants to prepare for the seminar.

B. Evaluation

The course grade will consist of:

  1. Annotated bibliography                35%
  2. Major paper                                 45%
  3. Seminar presentation                  20%
  4. Weekly group participation          PASS/FAIL

In order to pass the course, a passing grade must be obtained on both the pass/fail and the graded portions of the course requirements.

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