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."

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 to qualitative articles only, there are several things that you can do. Like quantitative articles, you can also add a search term of qualitative to your search statement. Example: diabetes AND exercise AND qualitative.

There are also filters in specific databases that allow you to limit your search results to qualitative articles only.

CINAHL and Medline: Clinical Queries Filter


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

  1. Select one of the database links above to open the advanced search page.
  2. Enter your keyword(s) into the search boxes. 
  3. Move 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. 
  4. Locate the Clinical Queries menu. This is a menu where you have several different choices for qualitative studies, including 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