Quantitative research (empirical) articles will tackle research questions that can be measured numerically and described using statistics. An example of quantitative research would be a randomized controlled trial.



Contains statistical analysis

Large sample size

Objective-little room to argue with the numbers

Type of research: descriptive studies, exploratory studies, experimental studies, explanatory studies, predictive studies, clinical trials


Ways of finding quantitative studies

1) Search your keywords with quantitative or with the type of study you want to find. For example:

“chronic pain” AND quantitative

“chronic pain” AND “clinical trial*”



2) If using the CINAHL database, choose the limiter shown below before you search:




Qualitative research articles will attempt to answer questions that cannot be strictly measured by numbers but rather by perceived meaning. Qualitative research will likely include interviews, case studies, ethnography, or focus groups.



includes interviews

Small sample size

Subjective-researchers are often interpreting meaning

Methods used: phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory, historical method, case study


Ways of finding qualitative studies

1) Search your keywords with qualitative or the type of study you are looking for. For example:

“chronic pain” AND (“case study” or “grounded theory” or ethnography or “historical method” or phenomenology)

“chronic pain” AND qualitative 




2) If using the CINAHL database, choose one of the 3 limiters shown below or select all 3 for the broadest search:

Qualitative clinical queries:

  • High Sensitivity – the broadest search to include ALL relevant material. It may include less relevant materials.
  • High Specificity – the most targeted search to include only the most relevant result set, may miss some relevant materials.
  • Best Balance – retrieves the best balance between Sensitivity and Specificity. 


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