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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

Qualitative research is subjective; it explores the QUALITY of people's experiences. It's less structured when compared to quantitative research. This type of study will:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Examine people's activities
  • Give a narrative conclusion 
  • Include observations and interviews 
  • Look to understand and interpret social interactions and behaviours 
  • Typically have a small group of subjects, i.e. <30
  • Uses words instead of numbers

Based on the University of Mary's Evidence-Based Nursing LibGuide. Image source: Pixabay


Remember: Quality = Qualitative

Identifying Qualitative Research

Look for these features for an appropriate article for your paper.

  • The title might  include "qualitative," "qualitative research," or "qualitative study" 
    (Caution: sometimes qualitative is mentioned if mixed method)
  • May use words such as 
  • “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
  • Use Ctrl-F (Command-F on Macs) to search the text for keywords that may clarify whether or not to include or exclude the article.
  • May identify themes
  • Data from unstructured interviews, diaries or focus groups – narrative-based (not statistics)
  • Small sample size <30.
  • Single population
    (ex. All adults, not a mix of adults and children)
  • Similar situation
    (ex. Context, phenomenon of interest, focus, etc.)


Based on NRSG-2502  “article type identification guide” and assignment documents supplied by the instructor