Qualitative & Quantitative Studies

Many times throughout your studies, you will be asked to locate Qualitative and Quantitative Research Studies regarding a particular topic.

Follow these steps to use the Subject Terms to locate the appropriate literature.  In these examples, I will search for Qualitative Research Studies.  The same steps can be taken for Quantitative Research Studies.  The steps are as follows:

  1. Open the MeSH 2017/CINAHL Headings and browse for the proper phrase
  2. Add the phrase to your search
  3. Browse additional terms
  4. Add more phrases and combine using AND
  5. Limit your result list

In some cases, the Subject Heading index may want you to rephrase using Quantitative Studies, Quantitative Research, etc.  If you are not having luck locating one or the other, try another database.  Not all indexes are created equal, but their function remains the same.

Step 1: MeSH 2014

CINAHL calls them CINAHL Headings.  MEDLINE calls them MeSH terms.  This stands for Medical Subject Headings.  Different name, same index.

Step 2: Choose the Preferred Term

Take note of the resultant list.  The phrase we want is in blue.  By clicking the checkbox to the left of Quantitative Research, we add it to our search strategy box on the right hand side.  Now, we can scroll down and click Browse Additional Terms.  Quantitative Research will remain stored in our Search box.


Step 3: Browse Additional Terms

Since we clicked Browse Additional Terms, the database will remind us that we haven't lost our query.  I'm going to locate the Subject Heading for Lung Cancer now.

Step 4: Combine Terms

As you can see below, the database uses the phrase Lung Neoplasms for Lung Cancer, as well as a few similar phrases.  Be sure to click the button to combine using AND instead of OR.

Step 5: Result List

Now we can hit that big green Search Database button!  Below is a picture of the results, which I limited to the last five years and Academic Journals.  There may only be 38 results, but they are 38 very specific results:

  • Qualitative Research
  • Published in academic journals
  • Within the last 5 years
  • Categorized as dealing with Lung Cancer

Step 6: Analyzing an Article Record

Before clicking on the PDF to read the full text of an article, you can gather a great deal of information about the literature before reading 20+ pages of research.  By clicking on the title of the article, you can view the record.  I chose the first from the preceding list.

I have circled the relevant subject terms from our search.  The other subject terms shed light on the other concepts within the article.

The Abstract of an article will give you the "blurb" but it is not a guarantee.  Many articles do not have Abstracts.  Some are very detailed, some only give the smallest hint of the content.  This is why the Subject Terms are so important.  The Abstract is supplied by the author.  The Subject Terms are assigned by experts within the database provider (EBSCO, ProQuest, GALE, etc.).