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Finding Qualitative Research Articles

This guide provides tips and information to guide you in your search for qualitative research articles through databases such as CINAHL, PubMed, and APA PsycInfo.

Tips for CINAHL

Strategy 1: Explode Qualitative Studies Subject Heading

Try exploding (+) the Qualitative Studies subject heading (MH "Qualitative Studies+"), which will include the following narrower subject headings:

  • Action Research
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Ethnological Research
  • Ethnonursing Research
  • Grounded Theory
  • Naturalistic Inquiry
  • Phenomenological Research

Strategy 2: Use Related Subject Headings

Experiment with related CINAHL subject headings such as:

  • Focus Groups
  • Narratives
  • Interviews
    • Explode to include Semi-Structured Interview, Structured Interview, 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
    • Explode to include Pictorial Methods, Verbal Projective Techniques
  • Vignettes

Strategy 3: Use a Clinical Queries Limit

Within the drop-down Clinical Queries menu, select one of the following:

  • Qualitative - High Sensitivity (This is the broadest search. It includes ALL relevant material, but may also include less relevant materials.)
  • Qualitative - High Specificity (This is the most targeted search. It includes only the most relevant result set, but may miss some relevant materials.)
  • Qualitative - Best Balance (This search retrieves the best balance between Sensitivity and Specificity.)

Strategy 4: Limit to Specific Publication Types

Refine/Limit the set to publication types that are qualitative by definition, for example Case Study, Interview, Metasynthesis, etc.

Strategy 5: Use Keywords

Use keywords to find articles missed by CINAHL subject headings (see General Strategies #2).

Strategy 6: Use a Pre-Built Search String

Insert the following search string into a single search box, but replace the blue text below with your actual search subject (e.g., home childbirth):

search subject AND ((MH "action research") or (MH "Audiorecording") or (MH "cluster sample+") or (MH "constant comparative method") or (MH "content analysis") or (MH "discourse analysis") or (MH "ethnographic research") or (MH "ethnological research") or (MH "ethnography") or (MH "ethnonursing research") or (MH "field studies") or (MH "focus groups") or (MH "grounded theory") or (MH "Historical Records") or (MH "Interviews+") or (MH "Narratives") or (MH "naturalistic inquiry") or (MH "observational methods+") or (MH "phenomenological research") or (MH "phenomenology") or (MH "purposive sample") or (MH "qualitative studies") or (MH "qualitative validity+") or (MH "questionnaires") or (MH "thematic analysis") or (MH "theoretical sample") or (MH "Videorecording+") or TX colaizzi* or TX constant comparative or TX constant comparison or TX cooperative inquir* or TX co-operative inquir* or TX co operative inquir* or TX Corbin* or TX data saturat* or TX discourse* analysis or TX emic or TX etic or TX ethnon* or TX field research or TX field stud* or TX focus group* or TX Foucault* or TX giorgi* or TX Glaser* or TX grounded analysis or TX grounded research or TX grounded studies or TX grounded study or TX grounded theor* or TX heidegger* or TX hermeneutic* or TX heuristic or TX human science or TX husserl* or TX life experiences or TX life stor* or TX lived experience* or TX merleau ponty* or TX narrative analysis or TX qualitative or TX participant observ* or TX phenomenol* or TX purpos* sampl* or TX questionnaire* or TX semiotics or TX spiegelberg* or TX Strauss* or TX van kaam* or TX van manen*)