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NURP 410: Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Articles

This course guide is designed to support the 2SN students in NURS 410 and covers Library resources and tools, effective search strategies and examples of scholarly research formats.

What's on this page?

Here you will find descriptions, criteria, and examples of qualitative and quantitative literature. Once you understand the differences between qualitative and quantitative research articles, see the Database Search Tips page in this guide for help with finding the articles you need.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative





Research that seeks to provide understanding of human experience, perceptions, motivations, intentions, and behaviours based on description and observation and utilizing a naturalistic interpretative approach to a subject and its contextual setting.

Research based on traditional scientific methods, which generates numerical data and usually seeks to establish causal relationships between two or more variables, using statistical methods to test the strength and significance of the relationships.


Observations described in words

Observations measured in numbers

Start With:

A situation the researcher can observe

A testable hypothesis

Goals of study design:

Participants are comfortable with the researcher.  They are honest and forthcoming, so that the researcher can make robust observations.

Others can repeat the findings of the study

Variables are defined and correlations between them are studied


If the researcher is biased, or is expecting to find certain results, it can be difficult to make completely objective observations

Researchers may be so careful about measurement methods that they do not make connections to a greater context

Some Methods:

Open-ended interviews

Focus groups


Participant observation

Close-ended interviews


Clinical Trials

Laboratory Experiments


From A Dictionary of Nursing

About Qualitative Studies

Qualitative research includes all modes of inquiry that do not rely on numbers or statistical methods.

Naturalistic [qualitative] approaches comprise a wide array of research traditions, most often in the categories of ethnography, grounded theory, and phenomenology, but they also include ethnology, ethnomethodology, hermeneutics, oral and life histories, discourse analysis, case study methods, and critical, philosophical, and historical approaches to inquiry.

Learn more!  Encyclopedia of Nursing Research

Finding Qualitative Articles

Finding qualitative studies can be slightly more challenging because this type of methodology is less commonly used in nursing research.  

Try adding one of the following keywords to your search:

  • qualitative studies (also a subject term)
  • case study
  • focus group
  • grounded theory
  • ethnographic
  • phenomenological
  • narrative

Look at the following qualitative article example for more search ideas:

Evaluating Qualitative Articles

Consider using one of the following when examining qualitative research:

About Quantitative Studies

Quantitative research consists of the collection, tabulation, summarization, and analysis of numerical data for the purpose of answering research questions or hypotheses.

Quantitative research uses statistical methodology at every stage in the research process. At the inception of a research project, when the research questions are formulated, thought must be given to how the research variables are to be quantified, defined, measured, and analyzed.

Learn more!  Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research

Finding Quantitative Articles

According to the Encyclopedia of Nursing Research, "The vast majority of all nursing studies can be classified as quantitative."  

As a result, you'll likely find quantitative research articles when you search for your topic.

You can also try adding one of the following keywords to your search:

  • quantitative studies (also a subject term)
  • statistics OR statistical
  • survey
  • clinical trial
  • randomized controlled trial

Look at the following quantitative article example for more search ideas.

Evaluating Quantitative Articles

Consider using one of the following when examining quantitative research:

Is it qualitative or quantitative research?

If you're still wondering if the article you have is qualitative or quantitative, below you'll find a table that highlights some of the key differences in qualitative versus quantitative research methods.

Mixed Methods Research

Mixed methods research combines quantitative and qualitative research methods in a single study. The use of mixed methods research is increasingly popular in nursing and health sciences research. This growth in popularity has been driven by the increasing complexity of research problems relating to human health and wellbeing.

Mixed Methods Research for Nursing and Health Sciences