Background. Contemporary research into caring in nursing was criticized in the pages of this journal by John Paley. He charged that the study of caring has not been advanced by research which, he reckoned, merely generates endless lists of terms to describe caring. He also argued that research in the field was largely flawed by confusion over the difference between things said about caring and the act of caring itself. The present paper. We have analysed Paley's criticism. Essentially, he is criticizing the whole field of survey research. The scientific process is underpinned by the implicit understanding that any field moves forward cautiously. In the social sciences multiple perspectives enrich understanding of phenomena and often confirm previous perceptions. The lack of any alternative approach from Paley is evident. Examples from psychology, where seemingly endless lists of descriptors have led through rigorous concept and statistical analysis to genuinely useful psychological and clinical data, are expounded. In contrast to Paley's assertions, the study of caring in nursing to date has also produced information which is useful within nurse education and practice. Conclusion. There is no confusion concerning the things said about and the things done in the name of caring in our minds. We acknowledge that studying the actual phenomena of caring is difficult. However, in the absence of definitive descriptions of caring and precise methods to study it, the search for perfection has not paralysed action. Much has been learned about caring and much remains to be learned.