Finding Types of Research


Throughout your schooling, you may need to find different types of evidence and research to support your coursework. This guide provides a high-level overview of evidence-based practice as well as the different types of research and study designs. Each page of this guide offers an overview and search tips for finding articles that fit that study design.

Note! If you need help finding a specific type of study, visit the Get Research Help page to contact the librarians.

Understand Evidence-Based Practice

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

One of the requirements for your coursework is to find articles that support evidence-based practice. But what exactly is evidence-based practice?

"Evidence-based practice is based on a comprehensive review of research findings, which emphasize intervention, randomized clinical trials (the gold standard), an integration of statistical findings, and the making of critical decisions about the findings based on the strength of the evidence, the tools used in the studies, and the cost" (Godshall, 2010, as cited in Jennings, 2000; Jennings & Loan, 2001).

The video below explains all the steps of evidence-based practice in greater detail.

Determine Your Clinical Question and PICO(T) Elements

One of the steps in evidence-based practice is to come up with a clinical question that you want to study. Often, the clinical question is presented in the PICO(T) format, which will help you come up with keywords to use in your search for articles.

PICO(T) is an acronym for:

  • Patient population
  • Intervention
  • Comparison
  • Outcome
  • Time

Note! If you need help constructing your clinical question or finding your PICO(T) elements, please reach out to your professor.

After you have developed your clinical question and have determined the parts of the PICO(T), then you are ready to search for articles in the library. In the next section, there is a description of the different types of studies you will find while searching for articles.

Types of Research Studies

Quantitative and Qualitative Studies

Research is broken down into two different types: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative studies are all about measurement. They will report statistics of things that can be physically measured like blood pressure, weight, and oxygen saturation. Qualitative studies, on the other hand, are about people's experiences and how they feel about something. This type of information cannot be measured using statistics. Both of these types of studies report original research and are considered single studies.

Study Designs

Some research study types that you will encounter include:

  • Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies

Studies that Synthesize Other Studies

Sometimes, a research study will look at the results of many studies and look for trends and draw conclusions. These types of studies include:

  • Meta Analyses
  • Systematic Reviews
  • Literature Reviews

Tip! How do you determine the research article's study type or level of evidence? First, look at the article abstract. Most of the time the abstract will have a methodology section, which should tell you what type of study design the researchers are using. If it is not in the abstract, look for the methodology section of the article. It should tell you all about what type of study the researcher is doing and the steps they used to carry out the study.

Search the Library

To answer your clinical question, you will have to search for relevant articles that report research. Remember, research is evidence. There are a few ways you can search for evidence in the library.

The best place to start your search is the Search Everything system on the library homepage. Use your (P)atient Population and (I)ntervention as the keywords for you search statement. You can then also try adding your outcome to your search statement to see if you can narrow your search down further. If you need help forming a search statement, review the Learn to Search guide.

You might also try other databases like Trip Pro for additional high-level research. Trip Pro has a PICO search form where you can enter your PICO terms and perform a search. Visit the database below to try it out!

Tip! You will most likely not find one article that will answer every aspect of your clinical question. Instead, you will have to find elements across multiple articles and put them together in your own analysis. If you are not finding enough evidence for your topic, please reach out to your professor.


Godshall, M. (2010). Fast facts for evidence-based practice : Implementing EBP in a nutshell. Springer Publishing Company.