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Human Development Research Guide

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

Quantitative research articles will tackle research questions that can be measured numerically and described using statistics. An example of quantitative research would be a randomized controlled trial.

 

Hints:

  • contains statistical analysis
  • large sample size
  • objective - little room to argue with the numbers
  • types of research: descriptive studies, exploratory studies, experimental studies, explanatory studies, predictive studies, clinical trials

 

Finding Quantitative Studies

  • Add the term quantitative or the type of study to your keywords.
    • “chronic pain” AND quantitative
    • “chronic pain” AND “clinical trial*”
  • Explore the advanced search options in the database you are using. Some databases (like PsycINFO, CINAHL, and PubMed) have limiters by study type or research design. See the example below from the CINAHL database advanced search.

Image of the advanced search screen in CINAHL with options to narrow by randomized control trials and by publication type circled in red.

Qualitative research articles will attempt to answer questions that cannot be strictly measured by numbers but rather by perceived meaning. Qualitative research will likely include interviews, case studies, ethnography, or focus groups.

 

Hints:

  • includes interviews or focus groups
  • small sample size
  • subjective - researchers are often interpreting meaning
  • methods used: phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory, historical method, case study

 

Finding Qualitative Studies

  • Add the term qualitative, the type of study, or the methodology to your keywords.
    • “chronic pain” AND qualitative
    • “chronic pain” AND ("grounded theory" OR ethnography OR phenomenology)
    • "chronic pain" AND (focus group OR interview)
  • Explore the advanced search options in the database you are using. The CINAHL database has 3 options for Qualitative Clinical Queries. See the example below from the CINAHL database advanced search.
    • High Sensitivity - the broadest search to include ALL relevant material. It may include less relevant materials
    • High Specificity - the most targeted search to include only the most relevant result set, may miss some relevant materials
    • Best Balance - retrieves the best balance between Sensitivity and Specificity

Image of CINAHL advanced search with the clinical queries box circled in red and the "qualitative - best balance" option selected.