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 terms1,2.
Not only does CINAHL's subject thesaurus contain more terms describing qualitative research, the general term "Qualitative Studies" became a thesaurus term in CINAHL in 1988, whereas "Qualitative Research" was added to PubMed's MeSH thesaurus in 2003.
In 1988, the phrase "Qualitative Studies" was added to the CINAHL subject thesaurus, and it is applied to records describing "investigations which use sensory methods such as listening or observing to gather and organize data into patterns or themes."
You can search for any record that has this subject heading using the field tag MH: (MH "Qualitative Studies")
There are more specific subject headings under "Qualitative Studies" in the CINAHL subject hierarchy:
Exploding' (+) this term will include those headings in the search as well (searching them all together with OR): (MH "Qualitative Studies+")
There are a number of additional CINAHL Subject Headings that may indicate that a record is describes qualitative research. For instance:
Clinical Queries are pre-formulated search strings that can be applied to a search as a filter. They are designed to help users focus their search by retrieving scientifically sound and clinically relevant study reports indexed in CINAHL databases. CINAHL offers a "Clinical Query" filter for locating Qualitative Research.
The queries are listed below, including the exact queries that are associated with each limit.
((MH “study design+” NOT MM “study design+”) OR MH “attitude” OR (MH “interviews+” NOT MM “interviews+”))
((MH “grounded theory” NOT MM “grounded theory”) OR (TI thematic analysis OR AB thematic analysis OR MW thematic analysis))
((TI interview OR AB interview) OR (MH “audiorecording” NOT MM “audiorecording”) OR (TI qualitative stud* OR AB qualitative stud*))
*Sensitivity vs. Specificity: "High sensitivity" indicates that the query will attempt to retrieve all relevant documents, resulting in a broader search, with a greater likelihood of generating false hits. "High specificity" indicates that the query tries to retrieve only relevant documents in a smaller, more precise search. "Best balance" is a search that balances specificity and sensitivity. Note that for a comprehensive literature search, it is important to err on the side of higher sensitivity.
When searching using subject headings (and the field tags that look only in the subject field of records - e.g., MH), it is possible to miss records that are not well described using the subject terms. As such, it is a good idea to also try using text words, or keyword searching, to look in the other fields of the records (e.g., the title and abstract). These terms can be used across many different databases to try to locate records describing qualitative research:
(qualitative OR ethnograph* OR phenomenol* OR ethnonurs* OR grounded theor* OR purposive sample OR hermeneutic* OR heuristic* OR semiotics OR lived experience* OR narrative* OR life experiences OR cluster sample OR action research OR observational method OR content analysis OR thematic analysis OR constant comparative method OR field stud* OR theoretical sample OR discourse analysis OR focus group* OR ethnological research OR ethnomethodolog* OR interview*)
You can limit your search to only show records for publication types that are, by definition, most likely qualitative (e.g., Anecdotes, Interviews).
To filter by Publication Type:
CINAHL has the following Subject Headings that may be useful for locating mixed-methods studies:
You can also search your topic with the following suggested text words:
mixed model* OR mixed design* OR multiple method* OR multimethod* OR triangulat*