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Nursing Research

Qualitative & Quantitative Research


Qualitative - relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity.

Quantitative - relating to, measuring, or measured by the quantity of something rather than its quality.


Qualitative Research Quantitative Research 
Methods include focus groups, unstructured or in-depth interviews, and reviews of documents for types of themes
Surveys, structured interviews, measurements & observations, and reviews of records or documents for numeric or quantifiable information
Primarily inductive process used to formulate theory or hypotheses Primarily deductive process used to test pre-specified concepts, constructs, and hypotheses that make up a theory
More subjective: describes a problem or condition from the point of view of those experiencing it More objective: provides observed effects (interpreted by researchers) of a program on a problem or condition
Text-based Number-based
More in-depth information on a few cases Less in-depth but more breadth of information across a large number of cases
Unstructured or semi-structured response options
Fixed response options, measurements, or observations
No statistical tests
Statistical tests are used for analysis
Less generalizable
More generalizable

Credit: UTA Libraries Nursing Research Guide



 Use the Clinical Queries menu on the Advanced Search:

  • Qualitative-High Sensitivity for a broad search
  • Qualitative-High Specificity for a narrow, specific search
  • Qualitative-Best Balance for something in between



There is no easy way to specify quantitative studies in CINAHL.

Randomized Controlled Trials (check box or in the Publication Type menu) are often quantitative, or at least have a quantitative aspect.

 Use the Publication Type menu:

  • Equations and Formulas
  • Statistics
  • Tables and Charts
  • Randomized Controlled Trials (if you haven't already done a search with the check box, see above)
    (you can select more than one option in the drop down box by using CTRL-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac))

Graph and Chart are available from the more limited Image Quick View check boxes (bottom of the Limits menu), as well. Results will be mostly 1-click full text, unlike the Publication Type menu options above.

These don't guarantee quantitative studies, but they help narrow things down.