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Locating Qualitative Research: CINAHL


CINAHLplus  Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature.

Studies have shown that CINAHL is generally the best database to use to find qualitative research articles related to a nursing topic, mainly due to its more in depth thesaurus terms. (Flemming, 2007; Wilcznski, 2007)

Qualitative Studies became a thesaurus term in CINAHL in 1988 (whereas Qualitative Research became a MeSH heading in PubMed in 2003).


  • Explode the Qualitative Studies subject heading, and see what you get. Explode will include the following CINAHL Headings: Action Research, Ethnographic Research, Ethnological Research, Ethnonursing Research, Grounded Theory, Naturalistic Inquiry, Phenomenological Research.
  • Experiment with related CINAHL subject headings such as Focus Groups, Narratives, Interviews (explode Interviews to include Semi-Structured Interview, Structured Interview, Unstructured Interview), Descriptive Research, Descriptive Statistics, Audiorecording, Videorecording, Diaries, Observational Methods (explode to include Non-Participant Observation, Participant Observation, Structured Categories, Unstructured Categories), Projective Techniques (explodes to include Pictorial Methods, Verbal Projective Techniques), Vignettes, etc.
  • Refine/Limit the set to Publication Types that are qualitative by definition, for example Anecdote, Interview, etc.
  • Use Text Words to find articles missed by CINAHL headings

  • Refine/Limit your search with Clinical Queries. Select within the following options. The search strategies behind the limiter values are listed below:

    • Qualitative - High Sensitivity:

      ((MH “study design+” not MM “study design+”) or MH “attitude” or (MH “interviews+” not MM “interviews+”))

    • Qualitative - High Specificity:

      ((MH “grounded theory” not MM “grounded theory”) or (TI thematic analysis or AB thematic analysis or MW thematic analysis))

    • Qualitative - Best Balance:

      ((TI interview or AB interview) or (MH “audiorecording” not MM “audiorecording”) or (TI qualitative stud* or AB qualitative stud*))

      More about CINAHL Clinical Queries  here.

Mixed Methods Research Design

CINAHL has the following Subject Headings that may be of use: Multimethod Studies or Triangulation

You can also search your topic with the following suggested text words:

    mixed model* or mixed design* or multiple method* or multimethod* or triangulat*