Finding Types of Research

What is a Qualitative Study?

"Qualitative studies generally focus on informant perspectives and behaviors, primary forms of data collection include observations (direct through participant), interviews (individual or group), and/or field documents or artifacts, rather than surveys, instruments, or other types of measurements. Further data collection generally occurs in natural (field) settings, rather than investigator-structured situations or laboratories" (Tripp-Reimer et al., 2017).

To put it in lay terms, qualitative research deals with observing people and asking them to tell about their experiences.

Find Qualitative Articles

To narrow your search down to just qualitative articles, there are several things that you can do. Like quantitative articles, you can also add a search term of qualitative to your search string. See example below:

diabetes AND exercise AND qualitative

There are also things you can do in specific databases to help you narrow to qualitative articles as shown below.

CINAHL and Medline: Clinical Queries Filter


CINAHL and Medline are databases that allow you to limit your search results to qualitative articles only. 

To find qualitative articles in CINAHL or Medline, follow the steps below:

  1. Enter the database you want to search through the links above. You will be taken directly to the advanced search page. Enter your keyword (s) into the search boxes. 
  2. Scroll down to the Limit Your Results section. This is where you can add filters to your search to tell the database that you only want articles that fit specific criteria. 
  3. Locate the Clinical Queries menu. This is a scroll menu where you have several different choices for qualitative studies. They include High Specificity, High Sensitivity, and Best Balance as shown in the image below. You can experiment with all of them, but Best Balance often works well.

Example of a Qualitative Study


Tripp-Reimer, T., Ayres, L., Groves, P. S., & Mackin, M. L. (2017). Qualitative research. In J. Fitzpatrick (Ed.), Encyclopedia of nursing research (4th ed.). Springer Publishing Company.