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Discussion Variables, Hypotheses, and Relations

            The underlying purpose of research is to answer questions (Creswell, Klassen, Plano Clark, & Smith, 2011; Frankfort-Nachmias, Nachmias, & DeWaard, 2015).  Questions serve to guide the process of inquiry (Grove, Burns, & Gray, 2013).  The purpose of this post is to present a potential empirical research problem, identifying variables, hypotheses and relations, for the final project.

Empirical Research Problem

            Healthcare organizations report that newly graduated nurses are inadequately prepared for transition to practice (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2015; Institute of Medicine [IOM], 2010).  Standard nursing practice is the provision of evidence-based care supported by current research (Grove et al., 2013). In nursing academia, additional research is needed to identify best practices to enhance knowledge retention and development of critical thinking skills to improve scores on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) (Alameida et al., 2011; AACN, 2015; Benner, Sutphen, Leonard, & Day, 2010; IOM, 2010).

            A potential topic for the final project in this course would focus on critical thinking abilities and first-time NCLEX-RN pass rates.  According to Frankfort-Nachmias et al. (2015), units of analysis describe what will be studied and units of observation delineate the data collected.  For this project, the unit of analysis would be undergraduate nursing students and the units of observation would include scores on Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) critical thinking (CT) exams and NCLEX-RN pass rates per student. While support for the relationship between critical thinking ability and NCLEX-RN success can be found throughout current literature (ATI Nursing Education, 2015; Benner, Sutphen, Leonard, & Day, 2010; IOM, 2010) researchers must be careful to avoid making inaccurate assumptions based on study findings.  Frankfort-Nachmias et al. (2015) explain ecological fallacies as drawing conclusions about individuals based on group data, and individualistic fallacies as the converse, drawing conclusions about groups based on individual cases.  Careful examination of empirical evidence identifying individual and group performance is an essential step in avoiding these errors in reasoning (Frankfort-Nachmias et al., 2015).

Research Hypotheses

            Researchers formulate hypotheses about how changes to one (independent) variable affect or relate to another (dependent) variable (Grove et al., 2013). A research hypothesis must be clear, specific, testable with available methods, and value-free (Frankfort-Nachmias et al., 2015).  Controlled variables can influence results and should remain constant throughout the study (Frankfort-Nachmias et al., 2015).  For this study, it is hypothesized that there is a positive, but not perfect, relationship between ATI CT exam scores (independent variable) and successful completion of NCLEX-RN exam (dependent variable).   A second hypothesis might be that there is a positive, but not perfect, relationship between attendance in the CT course (independent variable) and CT test scores (dependent variable).  It is estimated that the higher the CT test score of undergraduate nursing students that have completed a senior term CT course with the same instructor (controlled variable) the more likely they are to pass the NCLEX-RN on the first attempt (Frankfort-Nachmias et al., 2015).


Although questions guide the research process, it is important for researchers to identify the variables, relationships and hypotheses as first steps in conducting research (Frankfort-Nachmias et al., 2015).  For this project, empirical research findings can help to identify critical thinking ability as a potential predictor for successful completion of the NCLEX-RN exam.


ATI Nursing Education. (2015). Assessment Technologies Institute.  Retrieved November 30, 2015, from

Alameida, M. D., Prive, A., Davis, H. C., Landry, L., Renwanz-Boyle, A., & Dunham, M. (2011). Predicting NCLEX-RN success in a diverse student population. Journal of Nursing Education, 50(5), 261-267.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2015). AACN-AONE Task force on academic-practice partnerships. Retrieved from

Benner, P., Sutphen, M., Leonard, V., & Day, L. (2010). Educating Nurses:  A Call for Radical Transformation. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Creswell, J. W., Klassen, A. C., Plano Clark, V. L., & Smith, K. C. (2011). Best practices for mixed methods research in the health sciences. Retrieved from

Frankfort-Nachmias, C., Nachmias, D., & DeWaard, J. (2015). Research methods in the social sciences (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Grove, S. K., Burns, N., & Gray, J. (2013). The practice of nursing research: Appraisal, synthesis and generation of evidence (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.

Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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