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OTA 235: How to Find Qualitative and Quantitative studies: Qualitative Articles

How do I find a qualitative article?

How do I find a qualitative article?

You can find qualitative articles by searching in the Library databases using methodology terms as keywords. Possible keywords include the type of study, data analysis type, or terminology used to describe the results.

Example keywords for qualitative studies
  • Action research
  • Case study
  • Content analysis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Ethnographic
  • Focus group
  • Grounded theory
  • Interview
  • Narrative
  • Observational
  • Phenomenological


When using the Database CINAHL

  • Experiment with related CINAHL subject headings such as Focus Groups, Narratives, Interviews (explode Interviews to include Semi-Structured Interview, Structured Interview, Unstructured Interview), Descriptive Research, Descriptive Statistics, Audiorecording, Videorecording, Diaries, Observational Methods (explode to include Non-Participant Observation, Participant Observation, Structured Categories, Unstructured Categories), Projective Techniques (explodes to include Pictorial Methods, Verbal Projective Techniques), Vignettes, etc.
  • Refine/Limit the set to Clinical Queries. Select within the drop-down Clinical Queries menu: Qualitative-High Sensitivity; Qualitative-High Specificity; Qualitative-Best Balance. High Sensitivity is the broadest search, to include ALL relevant material, but may also include less relevant materials. High Specificity is the most targeted search to include only the most relevant result set, but may miss some relevant materials. Best Balance retrieves the best balance between Sensitivity and Specificity.
  • Refine/Limit the set to Publication Types that are qualitative by definition, for example Anecdote, Interview, Metasynthesis, etc.


5 Qualitative Research Methods

Simple Searching Tips

You can use our library's databases to search for these kinds of research studies:

  • Try adding  "qualitative" or "quantitative" to your keywords when you're searching.  For example:
    • nutrition AND qualitative
    • nutrition AND quantitative
  • If you have a particular research methodology in mind (e.g. survey, experimentcase study, etc.) you can include keywords to describe it in your search.  For example:
    • dieting AND survey 
    • marijuana AND controlled trial


Case study

Attempts to shed light on a phenomena by studying indepth a single case example of the phenomena.  The case can be an individual person, an event, a group, or an institution.

Grounded theory

To understand the social and psychological processes that characterize an event or situation.


Describes the structures of experience as they present themselves to consciousness, without recourse to theory, deduction, or assumptions from other disciplines


Focuses on the sociology of meaning through close field observation of sociocultural phenomena. Typically, the ethnographer focuses on a community.


Systematic collection and objective evaluation of data related to past occurrences in order to test hypotheses concerning causes, effects, or trends of these events that may help to explain present events and anticipate future events. (Gay, 1996)


  • Use appropriate Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms in your search, such as:
    • Qualitative Research [research that derives data from observation, interviews, or verbal interactions and focuses on the meanings and interpretations of the participants. Year introduced 2003]
    • Interviews as Topic [conversations with an individual or individuals held in order to obtain information about their background and other personal biographical data, their attitudes and opinions, etc. It includes school admission or job interviews. Year introduced: 2008 (1980)]
    • Focus Groups [a method of data collection and a qualitative research tool in which a small group of individuals are brought together and allowed to interact in a discussion of their opinions about topics, issues, or questions. Year introduced: 1993]
    • Grounded Theory [The generation of theories from analysis of empirical data. Year introduced 2015]
    • Nursing Methodology Research [research carried out by nurses concerning techniques and methods to implement projects and to document information, including methods of interviewing patients, collecting data, and forming inferences. The concept includes exploration of methodological issues such as human subjectivity and human experience. Year introduced: 1991(1989)]
    • Anecdotes as Topic [brief accounts or narratives of an incident or event. Year introduced: 2008(1963)]
    • Narration [the act, process, or an instance of narrating, i.e., telling a story. In the context of MEDICINE or ETHICS, narration includes relating the particular and the personal in the life story of an individual. Year introduced: 2003]
    • Video Recording [the storing or preserving of video signals for television to be played back later via a transmitter or receiver. Recordings may be made on magnetic tape or discs (VIDEODISC RECORDING). Year introduced: 1984]
    • Tape Recording [recording of information on magnetic or punched paper tape. Year introduced: 1967(1964)]
    • Personal Narratives as Topic [works about accounts of individual experience in relation to a particular field or of participation in related activities. Year introduced: 2013]
    • Observational Study as Topic [A clinical study in which participants may receive diagnostic, therapeutic, or other types of interventions, but the investigator does not assign participants to specific interventions (as in an interventional study). Year introduced: 2014]

NOTE: Inconsistent indexing in PubMed. For example, grounded theory articles are not always indexed for qualitative research. Need to TextWord search for additional terms: “grounded theory”, “action research”, ethnograph* etc.

Additional MeSH terms that may be applicable to your topic include: Attitude of Health PersonnelAttitude to DeathAttitude to Health; or Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice.

  • Limit your search to specific Publication Types, such as:
    • Interview [work consisting of a conversation with an individual regarding his or her background and other personal and professional details, opinions on specific subjects posed by the interviewer, etc. Year introduced: 2008(1993)]
    • Diaries [works consisting of records, usually private, of writers' experiences, observations, feelings, attitudes, etc. They may also be works marked in calendar order in which to note appointments and the like. (From Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2d ed) Year introduced: 2008(1997)]
    • Anecdotes [works consisting of brief accounts or narratives of incidents or events. Year introduced: 2008(1999)]
    • Personal Narratives [works consisting of accounts of individual experience in relation to a particular field or of participation in related activities. Year introduced: 2013]
    • Observational Study [A clinical study in which participants may receive diagnostic, therapeutic, or other types of interventions, but the investigator does not assign participants to specific interventions (as in an interventional study).Year introduced: 2014]
  • Use Text Words to find articles missed by MeSH terms (see Strategy 2)
  • Use a Quality Research Filter:
    • 1.  PubMed Health Services Research (HSR) Queries
      • Select Topic - Specific Queries from the PubMed home page and then Health Services Research Queries.
      • This page provides a filter for specialized PubMed searches on healthcare quality and costs.
      • Enter your search topic and select Qualitative Research under Category

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