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Research: Qualitative Research

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative Research

"studying the behaviour of individuals in all the complexity of their real-life situations"   Bawden, D. (1990). User-oriented evaluation of information systems and services. England: Gower. p.27

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts" Albert Einstein

While there is great variation in qualitative research approaches, the following two features emerge across approaches:

  • interpretive - qualitative research focuses on understanding the way people interpret and make sense of their experiences and the world in which they live
  • naturalistic - qualitative research studies social phenomena in their natural settings

From Qualitative Research Guidelines Project


Advantages of Qualitative Data Analysis

Disadvantages of Qualitative Data Analysis

From Analyse This!!! Learning to analyse qualitative data

  Quantitative Research Qualitative Research

General Framework

  • Seeks  to confirm hypotheses
  • Postivist paradigm
  • Seeks to explore phenomena
  • Naturalistic paradigm
  • To predict & control
  • To understand (what, how & why)


  • Highly structured methods: questionnaires, surveys & structured observation
  • Use semi-structured methods: in-depth interviews, focus groups & participant observation
  • Rigid design
  • Controlled & experimental
  • Emergent design


  • Prediction
  • Outcomes
  • Generalisability
  • Rich description
  • Similarities & contrasts
  • Process & context
Data analysis
  • Statistical
  • Non-statistical


  • Relatively large samples often using random sampling
  • Small samples using purposive, convenient or snow ball sampling

Table from Qualitative Research in Nursing

Finding Qualitative Research

Finding Qualitative Research

Formulate your question using:

Population AND Situation

or PICo


phenomena of Interest


See PICO or PICo from Curtin University Systematic Reviews Guide 


Campbell Collaboration Systematic reviews on the effects of interventions within the areas of education, crime & justice, social welfare & international development

Note: Try adding qualitative or qualitative research as a concept in other databases.


Qualitative research filter for PubMed

PubMed includes saved search strategies (queries) that may help in the identification of literature relavent to health services research, including qualitative research.

  1. Connect to PubMed
  2. Under PubMed Tools choose Topic-Specific Queries .
  3. Choose Health Services Research (HSR) Queries.
  4. Select category Qualitative Research and choose narrow (usually preferable) or broad scope.  [Note:  To see what this actually searches, click on filter table.]
  5. Type topic terms in search box and click Go.

A modification of this strategy is linked below. Click on the strategy to run the search in PubMed, using the KEMH-specific URL.  You may then add other concepts to the search

qualitative research [MeSH] OR qualitative[tiab] OR themes[tiab]

Adapted from Duke University