Advancing Uncertainty: Untangling and Discerning Related Concepts

  • Janice Penrod The Pennsylvania State University


Methods of advancing concepts within the qualitative paradigm have been developed and articulated. In this section, I describe methodological perspectives of a project designed to advance the concept of uncertainty using multiple qualitative methods. Through a series of earlier studies, the concept of uncertainty arose repeatedly in varied contexts, working its way into prominence, and warranting further investigation. Processes of advanced concept analysis were used to initiate the formal investigation into the meaning of the concept. Through concept analysis, the concept was deconstructed to identify conceptual components and gaps in understanding. Using this skeletal framework of the concept identified through concept analysis, subsequent studies were carried out to add ‘flesh’ to the concept. First, a concept refinement using the literature as data was completed. Findings revealed that the current state of the concept of uncertainty failed to incorporate what was known of the lived experience. Therefore, using interview techniques as the primary data source, a phenomenological study of uncertainty among caregivers was conducted. Incorporating the findings of the phenomenology, the skeletal framework of the concept was further fleshed out using techniques of concept correction to produce a more mature conceptualization of uncertainty. In this section, I describe the flow of this qualitative project investigating the concept of uncertainty, with special emphasis on a particular threat to validity (called conceptual tunnel vision) that was identified and addressed during the phases of concept correction. Though in this article I employ a study of uncertainty for illustration, limited substantive findings regarding uncertainty are presented to retain a clear focus on the methodological issues.