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Qualitative Research

A guide to help with qualitative research methods and finding qualitative data.

Finding Qualitative Research Articles

Search in a multidiscplinary database or one that is discipline-specific using keywords that might appear in titles or abstracts to identify articles that have used qualitative methods. Some terms you may consider:

  • Qualitative
  • Focus group
  • Observation
  • Discourse analysis
  • Interview
  • Case Study
  • Ethnography or Ethnographic
  • Content analysis
  • Phenomenology
  • Grounded theory
  • Narrative

Using an asterisk (*) after a term tells the database to search for variant endings of the word. For example, observation* will include results with the terms observation, observations, or observational. A search in a database may look like this:

Finding Qualitative Research Using Methodology Filter

A small number of databases that include filters specific to methodologies will allow researchers to more readily limit their results by a method of interest.

PsycINFO has a Methodology filter that can be found at the bottom of the database's search homepage or on the left-hand side of the search results page. You may need to scroll to locate it in both places

PubMed can filter search results by a particular method using "Additional Filters" on the left-hand side of the search results page. Look through Article Types to see if the method of interest is included.

Finding Qualitative Research Using Subject Headings

Some databases come equipped with standardized terminology built in where all items that appear in a database are described using a standard word. This standard vocabulary can be called different things in different databases--subject headings, descriptors, thesaurus--but invariably serve the same purpose of describing an item in a standard way. This allows researchers the ability to easily manipulate a search to quickly pull back similar or related items without having to know all the ways that item could be referred to.

You can check to see if a database offers a searchable list of subject headings, and in most cases (but not all), this thesaurus or list will be located in the toolbar that runs along the top of the database search.

Some examples:


The database SocINDEX has an index called "subject terms."



The database Psycinfo has two subject indexes. One is "APA Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms" and the other is "Indexes."


There are some instances where you may need to dig a little to find a database's index of subject headings or assigned topics.


The databases PubMed has a link to its index on the advanced search page. The link is labelled "Index."