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Nursing Research

This guide centralized information for Nursing Research.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
QUALITATIVE QUANTITATIVE
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

Adapted from https://www.orau.gov/cdcynergy/soc2web/Content/phase05/phase05_step03_deeper_qualitative_and_quantitative.htm​

Features of Qualitative Research

Setting: Natural environment

Samples: Small groups or individuals

Data: Observational texts, notes, interviews

Interventions: None--looking for themes

Examples: Ethnography, biography, phenomenology, case study, grounded theory, case report, lived experience

What to look for: Interviews, open-ended questions, experiences, research gathered through observation and interviews, coding

Searching for Qualitative Research

Qualitative research - also known as naturalistic research - seeks to describe phenomena experienced by people.

To find articles that are more likely to be qualitative, look at the study types, study methods, or data analysis methods. The following is an example of the types of terms you can look for.  Review your course text or notes for other terms specific to your field of study.

The following is an example of the terms you can put in your search to limit to Qualitative Articles:

(Qualitative OR Naturalistic OR Ethnography OR Phenomenology OR  Grounded Theory OR Experience OR Thematic)

This system isn’t perfect.  You’ll still need to look at the Methods and Data Analysis/Results sections of the articles you find to make sure you have a truly quantitative study. (See the "Distinguishing Article Type" page to be sure you have a quantitative article.)

Also, check your article closely to see if you found a Mixed Methods study.  These types of study include both quantitative and qualitative methods.

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Types of Qualitative Data Collection

Methods Map: Qualitative Research

Features of Quantitative Research

Setting: Lab or controlled setting

Samples: Large, often with control groups and blinding

Data: Numeric data analyzed using statistical methods

Interventions: Predetermined, fixed variables

Examples: Quasi-experimental research, experimental research, randomized control trials, retrospective research, case-control study, control trial, cohort study, clinical trial

What to look for: Research question, hypothesis, intervention and variables, valid instrument (including surveys) to measure results, sample/control, data analysis/statistics

Searching for Quantitative Research

Quantitative research - also known as positivistic research - is a systematic process used to answer questions about measurable concepts.

To find articles that are more likely to describe quantitative research, look at the study types, study methods, or data analysis methods. The following image provides examples of the types of terms you can look for.  Review your course text or notes for other terms specific to your field of study.

The following is an example of the terms you can put in your search to limit to Quantitative Articles:

(Quantitative OR Positivistic OR Experimental OR Clinical Trial OR Randomized Control Trial OR Validity OR Intervention OR T-test OR ANOVA)

This system isn’t perfect.  You’ll still need to look at the Methods and Data Analysis/Results sections of the articles you find to make sure you have a truly quantitative study. (See the "Distinguishing Article Type" page to be sure you have a quantitative article.)

Also, check your article closely to see if you found a Mixed Methods study.  These types of study include both quantitative and qualitative methods.

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Methods Map: Quantitative Research

Distinguishing Article Type

NOTE: Check to see if the study type is at the top or in the title.

If so, skip to questions 3a & 3b.


1. Does it have Method and Results sections?

EXAMPLE ABSTRACT

a) If not, the article is secondary research (typically a review).

b) If it does have Method and Results sections, continue to step 2.

 

 

2. In the Method section, does it talk about a literature search strategy?

EXAMPLE ABSTRACT

a) If you answered yes, it is a systematic review or meta-analysis.

b) If you answered no, and that section describes a research study
(research participants, an intervention, etc.), 
it is original research. Continue to step 3 to determine its type.

 

 

STEP 3: Now, let's determine what type of original research this is.

 

3a. In the Method section, is the study described as an interview, observation, or questionnaire? Does the study involve looking into self-reported beliefs, thoughts, etc.?

aIf you answered yes, it’s a qualitative study.

b) If you answered no, see 3b.

3b. In the Method section, does the study describe the use of already-existing data (for example, reviewing patient admissions from the past 3 months)?

aIf you answered yes, it’s a retrospective study.

b) If you answered no, see 3c.

 

3c. In the Method or Results sections/areas, does it mention using quantitative analyses or statistical tests (e.g., ANOVA, t-test, p values)?

EXAMPLE ARTICLE EXCERPT

 

aIf you answered yes, it’s a quantitative study.

b) If you answered no, it’s qualitative.

 

BONUS. Are 3a AND 3c both true?  In other words, does the study use BOTH  quantitative and qualitative methods?

If so, it's a mixed methods study.