The process and utility of classification and regression tree methodology in nursing research

L Kuhn, Karen Page, John Ward, Linda Worrall-Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: This paper presents a discussion of classification and regression tree analysis and its utility in nursing research. Background: Classification and regression tree analysis is an exploratory research method used to illustrate associations between variables not suited to traditional regression analysis. Complex interactions are demonstrated between covariates and variables of interest in inverted tree diagrams. Design: Discussion paper. Data sources: English language literature was sourced from eBooks, Medline Complete and CINAHL Plus databases, Google and Google Scholar, hard copy research texts and retrieved reference lists for terms including classification and regression tree* and derivatives and recursive partitioning from 1984-2013. Discussion: Classification and regression tree analysis is an important method used to identify previously unknown patterns amongst data. Whilst there are several reasons to embrace this method as a means of exploratory quantitative research, issues regarding quality of data as well as the usefulness and validity of the findings should be considered. Implications for Nursing Research: Classification and regression tree analysis is a valuable tool to guide nurses to reduce gaps in the application of evidence to practice. With the ever-expanding availability of data, it is important that nurses understand the utility and limitations of the research method. Conclusion: Classification and regression tree analysis is an easily interpreted method for modelling interactions between health-related variables that would otherwise remain obscured. Knowledge is presented graphically, providing insightful understanding of complex and hierarchical relationships in an accessible and useful way to nursing and other health professions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1276-1286
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Classification tree
  • Data analysis
  • Data mining
  • Decision tree
  • Nursing research
  • Recursive partitioning
  • Regression tree
  • Research method

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