Dr. Afaf Meleis is one of our foremost nurse scholars with an excellent grasp of difficult theoretical content. 

  • Meleis (1997) describes a phenomenon (singular) as “An aspect of reality that can be consciously sensed or experienced” (p. 11).
  • Phenomena (plural) can be described from the evidence that is sense-based and can be seen, heard, smelled, or felt, or is derived from evidence that is grouped together through connections (Meleis,1997).
  • To use a real-world example: you are flying home from Europe and you feel tired, groggy, and are having problems remembering things.  These things are all related to the phenomenon of flying across multiple time zones.
  • ..how does that relate to concepts? According to Dr. Meleis (1997), a concept “is a term used to describe a phenomenon or a group of phenomena” (p.12).

A concept provides us with a detailed summation of thoughts related to the phenomenon as a way of labeling.

  • If we did not have that label, we would have to go into detail to describe the phenomenon.
  • So, from our example above related to flying, we can give that the label “jetlag.”
  • Our concept is jetlag….when you hear that term, you automatically think of what that means…that groggy, slightly disoriented feeling you get when flying across time zones.
  • Sometimes, the appropriate labeling of the phenomenon will be very clear and other times it is more abstract.

Chinn & Kramer (2015) state that a concept lies along a continuum from the empiric (more directly experienced) to the abstract (more mentally constructed).

  • For example, the most concrete empirical concepts are those that can be directly experienced such as height and weight; this type of “measured” concept would lie at one end of the continuum.
  • Concepts can also be much more abstract, such as “self-esteem” and “wellness”, this type of concept would lie on the other end of the continuum.  Do you see the difference?
  • Of course, the more empiric and concrete, the easier it is to understand and measure.
  • The more abstract the concept, the more difficult to understand and measure (Chinn & Kramer, 2015).

How does this relate to theory?

  • Concepts are the building blocks of theory; a well-constructed theory will contain multiple, well-defined concepts that provide a way to examine our patients, the overall health situation, even the environment.
  • This will become more apparent to you when you begin Module 3.

A Concept Analysis is a prescripted evaluation of a specific “word” or group of words that may have different meanings to different people. 

  • There are several methods of Concept Analysis, the most frequently used method in nursing literature is the Walker and Avant (2005) method of Concept Analysis.
  • A Concept Analysis is intended to give clarification and a deeper understanding of words and phrases commonly used in nursing practice.

Avant and Walker (2005, 2019) describe eight (8) procedures for the concept analysis:

  1. Select a concept
  2. Determine the aim or purpose of the analysis
  3. Identify uses of the concept
  4. Determine the defining attributes
  5. Identify a model case that demonstrates all the defining attributes
  6. Identify the antecedents (causes) and consequences (effects)
  7. Define empirical references, which are categories of actual phenomenon that demonstrate the occurrence of the  concept (i.e., kissing demonstrates affection)

Your beginning step should be to think about the phenomenon of interest (POI) you just wrote about. 

  • What comes to mind when you think about the POI?
  • Are any “labels” apparent?

As a first step, you may want to search the Biomedical library with the search terms “concept analysis nursing”. 

  • This should result in a number of published concept analysis articles from the peer-reviewed literature.
  • From this broad search, you can then narrow your search to find an article that is appropriate for your selected Phenomenon of Interest.
  • An example of a Concept Analysis article is provided for you in the Recommended Resources section to help you identify what type of article you are looking for in your literature search.

Identify a Concept Analysis article and consider the following as you critically examine the article (Avant and Walker, 2019):

  • Determine if the authors tested the overall theory or only part of a theory.
  • Do the authors discuss any difficulties in testing the theory?
  • Do the authors describe any limitations that may have affected the validity of the theory testing?
  • Do the authors recommend changes to the theory as a result of testing?


Chinn, P.L., & Kramer, M.K. (2015). Knowledge development in nursing. (9th ed).  St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier

Meleis, A. I. (1997). Theoretical nursing: Development and progress (3rd  Ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Walker, L.O., & Avant, K.C. (2005). Concept analysis: Strategies for theory construction in nursing (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.  Link to Article

Walker, L.O., & Avant, K.C. (2019). Concept analysis: Strategies for theory construction in nursing (6th ed.) NY, NY: Pearson.

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