Journal of Health Specialties

: 2017  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 185--191

A cross-sectional survey on nursing students' attitude towards research

Samia Saud Al Furaikh1, Badriyah Erbaie Al Omairi2, Thilagavathy Ganapathy2,  
1 Department of Pediatrics, King Abdul Aziz Hospital, College of Nursing-A, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences; Dean, College of Nursing-A, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, Al-Ahsa, KSA
2 Department of Pediatrics, King Abdul Aziz Hospital, College of Nursing-A, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, Al-Ahsa, KSA

Correspondence Address:
Samia Saud Al Furaikh
Dean, College of Nursing-Al Ahsa, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS) National Guard Health Affairs ER, P.O. Box 2477, Al-Ahsa 31982


Background: Nursing research promotes optimum care for patients through evidence-based nursing practice. Students' attitude towards research motivates them to engage in research, develop research skills and apply research findings in clinical settings to promote positive patient outcome. Aim: The aim of this study is to analyse the attitudes of undergraduate nursing students towards research component in order to discover implications for the best practices in teaching/learning process. Materials and Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional investigation was carried out with purposively selected n = 186, level 5–8 students at the College of Nursing-A, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Al-Ahsa from 2016 to 2107. With informed, voluntary consent, data on students' attitudes towards research were collected using a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 32 items on a Likert scale of strongly agree (4) to strongly disagree (1) with the scores ranging from 32 to 128. Analyses were performed using SPSS version 20. Results: The overall attitude towards research was positive with a mean score (68.4 ± 6.580). Most of the students (78%) regarded that research is useful for the nursing profession. Positive attitude towards research was demonstrated by 68% of the nursing students, 61% reported that research plays an important role in professional and personal life, whereas the highest proportion of students (71%) perceived research as a difficult, complicated, stressful subject and 64% reported statistical difficulty. Conclusion: Although many of the students have a favourable attitude towards the research process and acknowledge its usefulness and benefit to the nursing profession, many of them perceived their research course as stressful. Most of them reported having negative feelings and anxiety towards the research process. Incorporating research course(s) into the curriculum at the pre-university level and having a statistical expert from the research centre teach learning strategies, would yield more positive experiences for students.

How to cite this article:
Al Furaikh SS, Al Omairi BE, Ganapathy T. A cross-sectional survey on nursing students' attitude towards research.J Health Spec 2017;5:185-191

How to cite this URL:
Al Furaikh SS, Al Omairi BE, Ganapathy T. A cross-sectional survey on nursing students' attitude towards research. J Health Spec [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Jul 5 ];5:185-191
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Full Text


Incorporating scientific evidence is vital in the field of nursing practice [1] in order to deliver holistic, client-focused care;[2] and the magnitude of its inclusion in baccalaureate nursing graduate instruction cannot be overemphasised.[1],[2] Prospective nurses will begin to appreciate the concept and benefits of research to the quality of patient care, only when they are involved in research activities during their academics.[1] A formal systematic scientific investigation in the nursing domain has remarkable impact on present and subsequent clinical advancements in the nursing practice which can directly or indirectly improve patients' safety, outcome and education.[1],[2] Baccalaureate nursing students who were not previously exposed to research-related courses in their pre-university education, when newly confronted with research and biostatistics course in their curriculum, typically tend to perceive it with negative attitudes and feelings.[3],[4] Research studies have revealed that college students experience a great deal of difficulty in understanding the concepts of quantitative research methodology and statistics courses.[5] The students encountered problems in the research subject that deals with statistical computation – the mathematical science of statistics, may result in low-quality learning, negative orientation and unsatisfactory grade in the subject.[6]

Undergraduate nursing graduates are offered nursing research course in their curriculum. This course provides them with the information and skills needed for professional practice. Using multiple theory-based approaches and methodologies, it prepares the learners to understand patients' health condition in order to find effective logical approaches to achieve and sustain optimal health. The introduction to biostatistics subject covers primarily the mathematical relationships, equations and formulae to interpret the influence of variables, to understand client's clinical data and provide the best possible authenticated patient-centred care.[7],[8] The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties [9] and the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA),[10] University Students Research Board and the research committee at the respective nursing colleges take intensive measures to boost research skills in students by providing a platform for students to showcase their research skills at annual research conferences.

Prior research studies have found that negative attitudes towards a course can impact the sum of attempt one is prepared to go through in acquiring knowledge or skills in that subject, which may have an effect on choosing higher level courses in analogue fields beyond those of minimum requirements.[6],[11],[12] To date, no studies have evaluated nurses' perspective outlook on research within the nursing practice at Al-Ahsa region in KSA. Therefore, evaluating the Bachelor of Science nursing programme students' perception towards clinical nursing research is a need of the hour to design patient-centred teaching and learning strategies that will promote favourable attitudes of learners towards research in the nursing domain.

 Materials and Methods


To explore the undergraduates' attitude towards nursing research, a cross-sectional study was carried out among purposively selected n = 186 college of nursing students enrolled at level 5–8 during the fall semester of 2016–2107 at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), Al-Ahsa. Two inclusion criteria were adopted: students who were enrolled in level 5–8 from both Streams I and II during the Fall semester of 2016–2017 and students who volunteered to participate in the study. Students who had withdrawn, on drop status or sick during the period of data collection were excluded from the study.


The study was conducted at the Nursing College, KSAU-HS, Al-Ahsa, KSA. This college offers a 4-year undergraduate programme in nursing to Saudi female students at two levels, such as Streams I and II. Stream I provides a 4-year undergraduate nursing programme for high school Saudi female students and Stream II provides 2-year accelerated Bachelor of Science programme to Saudi female university graduates.

Paper and pencil questionnaire

To evaluate the attitudes of undergraduates towards research, factor analysed attitudes towards research tool by Papanastasious [13] was utilized. The questionnaire had 32 measurable elements classified into five parts. The first part evaluated the students' perception on the usefulness of research in improving healthcare practices to patients. The second part dealt with insecurity, apprehension and uncertainty in analysing the data; the third section assessed their interest in research, the subsequent fourth and fifth sections described students' opinion on the role of research in their personal and professional life and trouble, difficulty and problems they encounter in analysing the arithmetic concepts of research, respectively. The internal consistency of the whole scale was very high at 0.939.

Ethical approval

The Nursing Research Board at the College and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC), KSA, Scientific Committee and the Institutional Review Board (KAIMRC) Riyadh (IRBC/1258/16) approved the research project. Eligible nursing students were given written information outlining the purpose of the study and were invited to ask questions. The researcher explained to the participants that their participation would be voluntary. Informed consent was collected after participants were informed orally and in writing about the study's purposes. Participants were assured that they could excuse themselves from participating at any time during the study, if they felt uncomfortable. They were instructed not to write any identifying information on the questionnaire, and they were assured that their responses would be kept in the strictest confidence. Furthermore, they were assured that answers on questionnaires would not have any impact on grades. Participants were not considered to be at any risk during the administration of the questionnaire. The students were informed that the duration of the interview would be approximately 20–30 min.

Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS version 20 (IBM, Chicago, IL, USA). Descriptive statistics-frequencies and percentages were performed on all items and non-parametric Chi-square/Fishers exact probability tests were used to find the association of students' attitude towards research with sociodemographic variables. An alpha of <0.05 was considered significant in all tests.


Participants' characteristics

Out of 186 students, 171 students participated in the study, with the overall feedback rate of 92%. The students' age ranged from 20 to 29 years with an average age of 22.6 ± 2.305. The Chi-square/Fisher's exact probability test revealed insignificant difference between their perception of benefits, relevancy, statistical difficulty and negative feelings towards research with the age, level of education, grade point average (GPA), stream and exposure to research course.

Overall attitudes towards research in five domains

The overall attitude towards research was positive with mean score (68.4 ± 6.580) [Table 1]. Most of the participants (78%) reported that research is useful for the nursing career. Positive attitude towards research was demonstrated by 68% nursing students and 61% reported that research plays an important role in professional and personal life. However, a large proportion of students (71%) perceived research as a difficult, complicated and stressful subject. Sixty-four percent reported statistical difficulty [Figure 1].{Table 1}{Figure 1}

Research usefulness for profession

A vast proportion of the students expressed that 'research is useful and valuable to their nursing profession' (n = 145, 85%). In addition, they reported that research knowledge and skills would be helpful for them in the future, especially for postgraduate studies and professional advancement (n = 140, 82%). The highest proportion (n = 136, 80%) of students asserted that they would use research approaches in their profession in order to provide quality care to patients and (n = 135, 79%) strongly perceived that research should be mandatory in the nursing programme. Most of them (n = 123, 72%) felt that all nursing students should learn and conduct research during their student period. They reported that the expertise acquired in research will be beneficial to them in their prospective career (n = 140, 82%). Moreover, (n = 136, 80%) expressed that they will 'apply research methods in their nursing field'.

Positive attitude and relevancy of research

While the majority of students strongly agreed that students are benefitted from studying and conducting research (n = 123, 72%), nearly 70% (n = 120) expressed their desire to study research process in detail (n = 108, 60.6%) and 73% of the students felt that research-oriented thinking is suitable for professional life but not for personal life.

Research anxiety and statistical difficulty

Although the majority of students had demonstrated positive attitude towards research, nearly 147 (86%) perceived that the research and statistics course is stressful, makes them nervous (n = 140, 82%) and anxious (n = 141, 82%). One-hundred-thirty-three (78%) of the students reported that they are literally scared of the subject. Students also felt that the course is complicated (n = 99, 58%), difficult to understand (n = 110, 64%) and felt very insecure regarding the statistical methods (n = 114, 86%) used to analyse research data.


Although 186 students enrolled, only 171 (91%) completed the survey questionnaire indicating students' favourable attitude towards research. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first study in KSA, yielding the highest response rate as compared to other studies conducted in the Kingdom by Noorelahi et al.,[12] and Alghamdi et al.,[14] who reported a moderate response rate of 63.3% and significant barriers impeding research activities during undergraduate education. This present study evaluated the Bachelor of Nursing Science students' opinion on the usefulness of clinical nursing research, anxiety and difficulties towards learning and conducting research in nursing field, to recommend possible educational measures that would minimise students' apprehension and ignite their interest to conduct and participate enthusiastically in health-related research to maximise patients' clinical outcome.

Positive attitude towards research

Encouragingly, the majority (68.4%) of nursing students were positive about research and felt that scientific exploration of the phenomena is indispensable, mandatory and high-priority to their training programme and clinical practice in proportion to a few exhibiting absolute undesirable feelings (68.4% vs. 31.6%), respectively. These positive attitudes were seen in usefulness, interest, benefits and relevancy of research in the nursing profession. The positive outcome of this study finding could be attributed to the efforts of our university to implement intensive research environment in the nursing programme as part of its mission and strategic plan. Similar findings were reported by Alghamdi et al.,[14] who conducted a study among final year undergraduates in medicine at King Saud University, Riyadh, KSA, in which 67.4% felt that conducting research should be mandatory for all medical students in their curriculum. Consistent findings were reported by Al-Nashmy et al.,[15] and Amin et al.,[16] that Bachelor of Science graduates in medical and allied health subjects in the KSA, demonstrated a moderately positive attitude towards research with mean score of 4.4 ± 1.1 out of 6. However, they also found an inadequate comprehension of research principles, methods and designs among students.

Positive attitude of nursing students towards research is critical for the fruitful utilisation and implementation of the study findings in clinical practice. It is essential that the information gathered in systematic investigation is generalizable to improve clinical decision-making and standards of patient care.[16],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22] The better the favourable outlook of the students to the subject, the greater the practicability of them to function scholastically while acknowledging the importance and relevance of research in the nursing profession.[1],[22],[23] Health research activities are a cardinal component of healthcare studies, and it is extremely important to instill problem-solving skills, creative thinking and logical reasoning among healthcare students. It is also crucial to develop a conducive attitude among future healthcare practitioners towards evidence-based investigation from the inception of their primary care responsibilities.[16],[17] By identifying the learners' awareness towards research, their tutors may intensify their discussion about the value of nursing research and its capacity to influence the optimal nursing services provided to patients in a various healthcare environments. Furthermore, instructors may also reform students' outlook by advising them to take part in scientific gatherings, discussions, and conferences to facilitate their interest in research and nurture a profound value of the course. This will in turn minimise students' unknown fear of the research subject. In truth, the information gathered from this study may form a base to devise multiple teaching and learning activities to supplement or augment and enhance nursing students' point of view, perseverance and determination in pursuing scholarly nursing research activities to discover newer nursing interventions that would maximise patient clinical outcome.

Research anxiety and statistical difficulty

While most of our students reported their willingness to study the details of research, participate and conduct research, they still felt anxious, nervous, stressed and insecure about analysing research data. The reason for this could be that the research subject is taught by the nursing personnel who may not be an expert in the field of bio-statistics. Onwuegbuzie [6] and Papanasatasiou et al.,[21] asserted that students at the undergraduate level who find biostatistical concepts strenuous and demanding, manifest considerable amount of statistical fear and nervousness. This research anxiety can affect students' performance in classes and cause feelings of inadequacy and low self-efficacy for research-related activities. If nursing is conditioned by research-generated findings, then nurses should acknowledge and effectively use the evidence to provide quality care to patients. To do that, they must be knowledgeable in biostatistics.[3],[23] Statistics anxiety has been linked to students' performance in statistics and research courses.[24],[25] Research reveals that students tend to view research and biostatistics course with negative feelings, irrespective of their discipline of study, despite its significance. Lalayants [26] recommended that the college should foster a pleasant, amiable and productive environment to understand statistics, besides offering practical skills relevant to students' area of discipline using day-to-day practical lived-in experiences and examples. He also emphasised that teachers should explain statistical concepts in plain terms as per learners' field of specialisation to overcome their fear of mathematical workup. Meraj et al.,[19] who conducted a study among Pakistani medical undergraduates in order to assess their perceptions and attitudes towards research reported that majority of the students (70%) perceived research as stressful and (62.2%) complex while 41.9% felt that research is not mandatory in healthcare field curriculum, suggesting the need for necessitating teaching programmes based on individual needs.

Inculcating the passion for research among the students is vital to generate productive researchers, over a period.[27] The selection of teaching methods and the development of content to promote student engagement can make a difference in students' attitudes towards undergraduate research and optimise learning outcomes.[19],[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26] Griffith et al.,[28] recommend that transformative power of a teacher should positively reinforce the students to learn statistics by emphasising its importance in their lifelong educational and career aspirations.

Strangfeld [29] recommends that statistical teaching should be student-centred rather than teacher-focused. He says that the teacher should create and structure the teaching and learning where a student actively participates, identifies the problems, structures a questionnaire or measures to collect data, examines and explains the findings. Research [30] reveals that various learning styles such as presentation, use of diagrams, graphs, charts, experiments in the laboratory, field trip, drama and role play may generate better interest in students to learn statistics in order to overcome the computational difficulties of formulae in statistics. Baghi and Kornides,[31] who conducted a 10-week research workshop on statistics for health major students reported a positive attitude and increased voluntary involvement in research activities and decreased fear after the workshop. Health-related disciplines that use research-led practice should motivate the students to actively involve themselves as student investigators in clinical nursing research studies to learn, appreciate and feel comfortable with the research process.[1]

Research barriers and obstacles

Our study did not attempt to assess the knowledge of or barriers to research as we aimed to preliminarily explore the attitude of nursing students towards research, but we have identified the barriers reported in the literature among medical and allied health-related undergraduate students that included lack of experienced faculty member as guide to answer research questions [32],[33] time constraints, official procedure,[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17] restrictions in funding support,[19],[32],[34],[35] inadequate exposure to research activities, projects, overburdened educational activities, including examinations [16],[33] 'lack of rewarding and motivational system' in their colleges towards those who initiate research,[16],[33] poor mentoring of students in the field of scientific research, lack of awareness of the research activity,[35] little support from mentorship,[33] inexpert faculty staff [14],[15],[16],[33] lack of interest in research, intense workload [13],[14],[15],[16],[17] and limited opportunity to data sources (i.e., internet), materials and equipment and hard clinical practices.[15],[32],[33],[34],[35] Siemens et al.,[33] further reported that teacher-centred instructions of research and lack of acknowledgement of student researchers' contributions in the project were also contributing factors for students' negative feelings towards research. Memarpour et al.,[34] examined knowledge and obstacles to conduct research among undergraduate and postgraduate students in the field of medicine in addition to their attitude. Their study showed favourable knowledge of research, but students' opinion towards research was inadequate. Undergraduates showed better attitude than postgraduate students and females had better knowledge than males, but no gender-based difference was observed in attitudes to research.

Implications for practice

It is imperative that the prospective nurses develop interest, and the right attitude as well as get involved in clinical nursing research, to develop critical thinking skills in order to provide optimal quality care to the patients.[1] The selection of teaching methods and the development of content to promote student engagement can make a difference in students' attitude towards undergraduate research and optimise learning outcomes. To improve students' attitude towards research, nursing faculty should incorporate research-focused content into each nursing course [1] throughout the educational process in addition to the current single and concentrated 3-h research course. Involving students in a funded research study, improving training in research methodology, training on how to present a paper at scientific gatherings, writing up and submitting a paper for publication [1],[2],[22],[30] may be provided with scheduled classroom opportunities.[1] Nursing graduates are prospective members of the profession, and for this noble profession to continue to advance, intensive scientific inquiry must form the base for research-led clinical practice. Learning to provide safe and quality healthcare requires increased exposure to nursing research. Providing the students with adequate time and student-centred teaching and learning strategies would encourage them to get involved in research activities.


Generalisation of the findings to other nursing students is limited due to the homogeneous nature of the sample. The research sample was selected from one university only.


Despite their favourable attitudes towards nursing research, the baccalaureate nursing graduates have negative feelings towards biostatistics and reported that the statistical components of the subject are demanding and exhaustive. This could be explained by the sudden exposure to research methodology without prior introduction and preparation to research at the pre-university/high school level. The authors of this paper hope that introducing research courses at the pre-university education level and involving statistical experts at research centres to teach research concepts would be beneficial to future nursing students.


I am grateful to all the participants, midwives, obstetricians and the medical and nursing superintendent of the study setting for their support and participation. We are grateful to all the participants of the study setting for their participation.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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