Skip to Main Content

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 PubMed

Strategy 1: Use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH Terms) 

  • Qualitative Research – research that derives data from observation, interviews, or verbal interactions and focuses on the meanings and interpretations of the participants. Term introduced: 2003
  • Interviews as Topic – conversations with an individual or individuals held in order to obtain information about their background and other personal biographical data, their attitudes and opinions, etc. It includes school admission or job interviews. Term introduced: 2008 (concept introduced: 1980)
  • Focus Groups – a method of data collection and a qualitative research tool in which a small group of individuals are brought together and allowed to interact in a discussion of their opinions about topics, issues, or questions. Term introduced: 1993
  • Grounded Theory – The generation of theories from analysis of empirical data. Term introduced: 2015
  • Nursing Methodology Research – research carried out by nurses concerning techniques and methods to implement projects and to document information, including methods of interviewing patients, collecting data, and forming inferences. The concept includes exploration of methodological issues such as human subjectivity and human experience. Term introduced: 1991 (concept introduced: 1989)
  • Anecdotes as Topic – brief accounts or narratives of an incident or event. Term introduced: 2008 (concept introduced: 1963)
  • Narration – the act, process, or an instance of narrating, i.e., telling a story. In the context of medicine or ethics, narration includes relating the particular and the personal in the life story of an individual. Term introduced: 2003
  • Video Recording – the storing or preserving of video signals for television to be played back later via a transmitter or receiver. Recordings may be made on magnetic tape or discs (videodisc recording). Term introduced: 1984
  • Tape Recording – recording of information on magnetic or punched paper tape. Term introduced: 1967 (concept introduced: 1964)
  • Personal Narratives as Topic – works about accounts of individual experience in relation to a particular field or of participation in related activities. Term introduced: 2013
  • Observational Study as Topic – A clinical study in which participants may receive diagnostic, therapeutic, or other types of interventions, but the investigator does not assign participants to specific interventions (as in an interventional study). Term introduced: 2014

Additional MeSH terms that may be applicable to your topic include the following: 

  • Attitude of Health Personnel – attitudes of personnel toward their patients, other professionals, toward the medical care system, etc. Term introduced: 1968
  • Attitude to Death – conceptual response of the person to the various aspects of death, which are based on individual psychosocial and cultural experience. Term introduced: 1974
  • Attitude to Health – public attitudes toward health, disease, and the medical care system. Term introduced: 1968
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice – knowledge, attitudes, and associated behaviors which pertain to health-related topics such as pathologic processes or diseases, their prevention, and treatment. This term refers to non-health workers and health workers (health personnel). Term introduced: 2004 (concept introduced: 1975)

NOTE: Inconsistent indexing in PubMed. For example, grounded theory articles are not always indexed for qualitative research. You’ll need to add additional terms as keywords: “grounded theory”, “action research”, ethnograph*, etc.

Strategy 2: Limit to Specific Article Types

If these article types don’t appear in your list of filters, you must click the Additional filters button to display them before you can select them.

  • Interview – work consisting of a conversation with an individual regarding his or her background and other personal and professional details, opinions on specific subjects posed by the interviewer, etc. Year introduced: 2008 (1993)
  • Diary – works consisting of records, usually private, of writers' experiences, observations, feelings, attitudes, etc. They may also be works marked in calendar order in which to note appointments and the like (from Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd ed.). Year introduced: 2008 (1997)
  • Anecdotes – works consisting of brief accounts or narratives of incidents or events. Year introduced: 2008 (1999)
  • Personal narrative – works consisting of accounts of individual experience in relation to a particular field or of participation in related activities. Year introduced: 2013
  • Observational study – a clinical study in which participants may receive diagnostic, therapeutic, or other types of interventions, but the investigator does not assign participants to specific interventions (as in an interventional study). Year introduced: 2014

Strategy 3: Use Keywords

Use keywords to find articles missed by MeSH terms (see General Strategies #2).

Strategy 4: 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 ((((“semi-structured”[TIAB] OR semistructured[TIAB] OR unstructured[TIAB] OR informal[TIAB] OR “in-depth”[TIAB] OR indepth[TIAB] OR “face-to-face”[TIAB] OR structured[TIAB] OR guide[TIAB] OR guides[TIAB]) AND (interview*[TIAB] OR discussion*[TIAB] OR questionnaire*[TIAB])) OR (“focus group”[TIAB] OR “focus groups”[TIAB] OR qualitative[TIAB] OR ethnograph*[TIAB] OR fieldwork[TIAB] OR “field work”[TIAB] OR “key informant”[TIAB])) OR “interviews as topic”[Mesh] OR “focus groups”[Mesh] OR “narration”[Mesh] OR “qualitative research”[Mesh] OR “personal narratives as topic”[Mesh] OR (theme[TIAB] OR thematic[TIAB]) OR “ethnological research”[TIAB] OR phenomenol*[TIAB] OR (“grounded theory”[TIAB] OR “grounded study”[TIAB] OR “grounded studies”[TIAB] OR “grounded research”[TIAB] OR “grounded analysis”[TIAB] OR “grounded analyses”[TIAB]) OR (“life story”[TIAB] OR “life stories”[TIAB]) OR emic[TIAB] OR etic[TIAB] OR hermeneutics[TIAB] OR heuristic*[TIAB] OR semiotic[TIAB] OR “data saturation”[TIAB] OR “participant observation”[TIAB] OR “action research”[TIAB] OR (“cooperative inquiry”[TIAB] OR “co-operative inquiry”[TIAB]) OR (“field study”[TIAB] OR “field studies”[TIAB] OR “field research”[TIAB]) OR (“theoretical sample”[TIAB] OR “theoretical samples”[TIAB] OR “theoretical sampling”[TIAB]) OR (“purposive sampling”[TIAB] OR  “purposive sample”[TIAB] OR “purposive samples”[TIAB]) OR (“lived experience”[TIAB] OR “lived experiences”[TIAB] OR “life experiences”[TIAB] OR “life experiences”[TIAB]) OR “content analysis”[TIAB] OR discourse[TIAB] OR “narrative analysis”[TIAB] OR heidegger*[TIAB] OR colaizzi[TIAB] OR spiegelberg[TIAB] OR “van manen*”[TIAB] OR “van kaam”[TIAB] OR “merleau ponty”[TIAB] OR husserl*[TIAB] OR Foucault[TIAB] or Corbin[TIAB] OR Strauss[TIAB] OR Glaser[TIAB])