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Evidence-Based, Quantitative and Qualitative Research

This guide is a basic introduction to finding Nursing and health literature with a qualitative or quantitative focus.

Qualitative research using PubMed

There are multiple modes of approach when searching for qualitative research articles in CINAHL

1. Use keywords

2. Use Advanced search building and MeSH (medical subject headings) to create complex searches using the controlled vocabulary, or

3. Use customized filters to isolate articles with specific features

(These can also be combined).

Basic keyword search

Basic search

Use these keywords to look for articles containing the terms

“qualitative research” OR “qualitative study” 

(make sure you use the quotes and put the OR in all caps for best results)

Additional Keywords

Use these additional keywords to augment the search. You can also use them to help you identify qualitative research (or something else)

  • “Action Research” 
  • “Descriptive Research”
  • Diaries 
  • Ethnography
  • “Ethnographic Research” OR ethnography
  • “Ethnological Research” 
  • “Ethnonursing Research” 
  • “Focus Groups”
  • “Grounded Theory”
  • Hermeneutics
  • Interviews
  • Narratives “Naturalistic Inquiry”
  • “Observational Methods”
  • “Phenomenological Research” OR phenomenology

Advanced search & MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)

The most effective search in PubMed uses the MeSH terms - the controlled vocabulary. 

1. Click Advanced Search

​​2. In the first box, select "MeSH Term," and start typing "Qualitative research..." you will see a number of predictive options pop up; there are a number of MeSH terms around this topic, including: 

  • Qualitative research
    • Hermeneutics
  • Grounded theory
  • Alternative Subject Headings you could look for

    • Focus Groups,
    • Narratives,
    • Interviews
    • Descriptive Research,
    • Descriptive Statistics, 
    • Audiorecording, 
    • Videorecording,
    • Diaries,
    • Observational Methods, etc.


3. click the ADD button on the right to add the term to the query box using the correct syntax or field code

4. add other terms, i.e. Asthma. These can be MeSH, subjects, or All Fields. When the search is complete, Click the SEARCH button to search the results.

Specialized limiters

There are no pre-defined filters or limiters for qualitative research. However, you can add these as customized filters. To do so, you must first create a free NCBI account (click Log In in the top right corner) More about creating NCBI Accounts here.

You can use the Filter Manager to create customized filters. More about creating custom filters here.

These are customized filters created in the My NCBI account to isolate qualitative content.