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* Nursing Research Basics: Finding Qualitative Research Articles

This guide is designed to assist AU nursing students in finding information to support the assignments in introductory nursing courses.

Tips for Finding Qualitative Articles


Subject terms

PubMed uses "Qualitative Research" or "Nursing Methodology Research" as a subject term.

CINAHL uses subject heading "Qualitative Studies"  complemented by more detailed terms, including "Phenomenological Research" and "Grounded Theory"

On the lower half of first page of CINAHL, try selecting  Qualitative Best as a Clinical Query

Tips for Finding Qualitative Articles in PubMed

Subject terms

PubMed uses "Qualitative Research" or "Nursing Methodology Research" as a SUBJECT term.

Using PubMed's Saved Search Strategies

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


Basic Instructions:

  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. Type topic terms in search box and click Go.

The narrow qualitative query looks for the words qualitative and themes in titles and abstracts of articles.  A modification of this strategy is linked below.  It includes the MeSH term Qualitative Research, which was added to the MeSH vocabulary in 2003.  Click on the strategy to run the search in PubMed.  You may then add other concepts to the search.

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


Tips for Finding Qualitative Articles with a Keyword Search

If you want to limit your search to qualitative studies, first try "qualitatve as a keyword, then try using one of the following terms/phrases in your search (example: lactation AND focus group):

  • ethnography
  • "case study"
  • "focus group"
  • interview
  • "oral history"
  • phenomenology
  • "participant observation"
  • "content analysis"
  • experiential
  • "grounded theory"
  •  ethnonurs*
  •  "grounded theor*"
  •  "purposive sample"
  •  hermeneutic*
  •  heuristic*
  •  semiotics
  •  "lived experience*"
  •  narrative*
  • "life experiences"
  •  "cluster sample"
  •  "action research"
  •  "observational method"
  •  "content analysis"
  •  "thematic analysis"
  •  "constant comparative method"
  •  "field stud*"
  • "theoretical sample"
  •  "discourse analysis"
  •  focus group*
  •  ethnological research
  •  ethnomethodolog*.