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The practice of selecting for values in nursing

Michael Klaus Ronny Klingenberg (School of Health and Community Studies, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)
Caroline Pelletier (Institute of Education, University College London, London, UK)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 13 August 2019

Issue publication date: 2 October 2019



Research on the processes by which universities select candidates for nursing courses has tended to focus on the development and application of standardised methods. This methodological emphasis has extended to research on “values-based” selection in nursing, which is intended to sustain discrimination between applicants on the basis of their “personal values”. The purpose of this paper is to expand the range of methodological resources available for research on values-based selection, by examining how this is done in practice – by contrast to how it should be done. We analyse interactions between selectors, applicants and various materials deployed during the interview processes to show how values are made manifest, empirically. We conclude by discussing the implications of treating values as interactional achievements, rather than essentialised – i.e. purely “personal” – attributes.


We draw on methodological principles associated with actor network theory (ANT), which aims to describe how facts are produced through interactions between various actors. Data are presented from an ethnographic study of selection events at three UK universities. Our methods consisted of observation of selection events and interviews with academic staff, administrators and service users and carers, all of whom were involved in selecting candidates.


When selection is treated methodologically as a social practice and analysed empirically as an ongoing series of interactions, “personal values” can be seen as the effects of a negotiation during which connections are formed between different actors – i.e. elements involved in the selection process. Difference and same-ness in values become visible as the effects of “translation”, in the sense defined in the ANT literature, rather than as fixed attributes which precede selection.


This study makes an original contribution to research on values-based selection by analysing how this is done in practice.



Klingenberg, M.K.R. and Pelletier, C. (2019), "The practice of selecting for values in nursing", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 312-324.



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