Friday, July 15, 2005
This presentation is part of : Theory Development to Guide Research Practice
The Critical Incident Technique: a Qualitative Research Methodology
Jeanne Kemppainen, RN, PhD, CNS, School of Nursing, The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, USA
Learning Objective #1: Identify the basic rationale and advantages of the critical incident approach
Learning Objective #2: Describe the method for collecting and analyzing critical incident data

This presentation describes the critical incident technique, developed by Flanagan (1954), a qualitative research methodology with a wide range of application for nursing research. John Flanagan originally developed this methodology in order to identify behaviors associated with effective work performance. More recently, however, this research technique has been used by nurses and other health services researchers to identify patients' experiences in health care settings and also to determine patients' responses to illness and health care treatment. The critical incident is widely recognized as a highly reliable and valid method for gathering comprehensive and detailed descriptions about the behaviors of persons in significant and decisive situations. This intensive method of interview, often combined with observation, is designed to pinpoint facts and reduce judgment or personal opinions. The critical incident technique consists of a set of simple interview procedures designed to gather information from patients about their own behaviors or the behaviors of others. This presentation will discuss the background and development of the critical incident technique and also the basic rationale of the critical incident approach. The five step process for conducting a critical incident study will be presented, including a description of how to collect and prepare critical incidents and the format for analyzing critical incident data. Illustrations from the author's research with persons with HIV/AIDS and chronic mental illness will be presented along with prior research applications in health care settings. This research methodology is especially effective for nursing research studies that examine patient symptoms self-management behaviors and responses to illness and treatment.