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Qualitative vs Quantitative: Home

Advanced Searching in CINAHL

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

It is important to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative research results. Both are important, and both types of research publications can be peer reviewed, but they serve different purposes and may be appropriate as supporting material in different circumstances.

To tell whether a research article is quantitative or qualitative, click the title and scan the description, especially the Major Subjects and Minor Subjects.

Descriptions of quantitative research (quantitative = quantities = numbers = statistics) will contain phrases such as chi squareinferential statistics, and analysis of variance. Controlled trials are always quantitative.

Descriptions of qualitative research will often contain the phrase qualitative studies. Other phrases that signal qualitative research are action researchethnographic researchethnological researchethnonursing research, grounded theorynaturalistic inquiry, and phenomenological research.

NOTE: Research articles described as case studies are often qualitative but may be quantitative.

A good place to locate research articles is the nursing database CINAHL Complete. 

  • First check the box for "Research Article" and set the "Journal Subset" Box to "Nursing."
  • Then search your topic.
  • You may choose to add the following terms (as a drop-down) to your search strategy
    • qualitative research or qualitative study or qualitative methods or interview
    • quantitative or experimental or descriptive or correlational or quasi-experimental or clinical trial or randomized control trial or validity or intervention or t-test or anova
  • Without the above limiters, your search will yield nursing-research articles that are quantitative or qualitative or some combination of the two.
  • You can also limit your results using the pre-search limiters at the bottom of the search page, such as:

                     Publication Type: Case Study, Clinical Trial, Meta Analysis, Meta Synthesis, Randomized Control Trial, Systematic Review.

                     Clinical Queries: Prognosis, Review, Qualitative, Causation


Evidence-Based Databases

CINAHL Complete  (journals, systematic reviews, care sheets)

  • Use the Clinical Queries search option to limit to therapy, prognosis, and causation (etiology).
  • Check the box for Evidence-Based Practice.
  • Use the Publication Type search option to limit to Evidence-Based Care Sheet.

Cochrane Collection Plus. Controlled trials and other healthcare interventions, which include the Central Register of Controlled Trials, Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, Systematic Reviews, NHS Economic Evaluation, Health Technology Assessments, and the Methodology Register.

Clinical Trials - search the registry.

National Guideline Clearinghouse. Objective, detailed information on clinical-practice guidelines.

MEDLINE with Full Text - Biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life-science journals, and online books.

PubMed Clinical Queries - subset of PubMed containing results limited to specific clinical research areas.

TRIP database - overlay of many sources containing high-quality clinical-research evidence.

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