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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 in CINAHL

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

1. Use keywords 

2. Use CINAHL Subject Headings (Also known as MeSH) to create complex searches using the controlled vocabulary, or

3. Use Advanced search limiters to isolate articles tagged in specific collections

(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

CINAHL Subject Headings

CINAHL has its own version of MeSH called CINAHL Subject Headings; they are very similar but have been focused on nursing topics, whereas PubMed's MeSH is more general biomedical. We can use these subject headings to select the type of studies we want to draw out. 

1. Click CINAHL Subject headings in the blue banner

2. type "Qualitative studies" in the search box and click the browse button

3. Double-click the Qualitative studies term to expand the tree and see the branch terms.

From this point, you have the option to select the narrower terms and check the boxes to add them to the query builder on the right OR, you can "Explode" the Qualitative Studies term by checking the Explode box (as shown below), which will include all subtopics and narrower topics for that term (i.e. all the branches of that tree)

Once you have selected more than one option, you can select to connect them with AND or with OR. (more about CINAHL Subject Headings here (coming soon)

Clicking the SEARCH DATABASE button will load those terms into the advanced search box using the correct syntax. From here, you can add additional keywords (i.e. Asthma) and then click search.

Alternative Subject Headings you could look for

  • Focus Groups,
  • Narratives,
  • Interviews (explode Interviews to include Semi-Structured Interviews, Structured Interviews, and 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.

Advanced search limiters

1. Enter your keywords for your topic in the Advanced search box (you can refine by selecting field codes such as MeSH, Subject or leave it on all)

2. In the limiters below, select the following

  • Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals  >>all reputable studies will have gone through the peer review process.
  • Clinical Queries: Qualitative - Best Balance  >>this will isolate the articles that CINAHL has tagged as "qualitative studies."

optional limiters include

  • Publication date (years only)
  • Full text if you only want those articles >>any articles that are just abstracts can be requested through ILL for free