At NYU, MEDLINE can be searched via Ovid, or via PubMed. PubMed also includes some records that are not indexed in MEDLINE (see "MEDLINE, PubMed, and PMC: How are they different?"
MEDLINE has the following MeSH terms available, which can be used to retrieve qualitative research
NOTE: There is some inconsistent indexing in MEDLINE. For example, articles using a grounded theory approach are not always indexed with the subject term "Qualitative Research". As such, it is a good idea to also perform text word searches for additional terms: “grounded theory”, “action research”, ethnograph* etc.
There are some additional MeSH terms that may indicate a qualitative methodology and could be applicable (depending on your topic), including:
To find records that have been tagged with a specific MeSH term, you can use a field tag to ask the search engine to only retrieve results that have that term in the MeSH field of the record.
In PubMed, the field tags are enclosed in square brackets. [MeSH], [MH] or [MeSH Terms] are all equivalent tags that can be used to ask the search engine look in the MeSH field, only. For example: "Qualitative Research"[MeSH]
In MEDLINE via Ovid, the field tags are appended to the end of the term. The field tag sh or the forward slash symbol / can be used. For example "Qualitative Research"/ or "Qualitative Research".sh.
Clinical Queries are pre-formulated search strings that can be applied to a search to act as a filter. They are designed to help users focus their search by retrieving scientifically sound and clinically relevant study reports indexed in MEDLINE. MEDLINE via Ovid offers a "Clinical Query" filter for locating Qualitative Research, while PubMed offers this filter under 'Health Services Research Queries'
(((“semi-structured”[TIAB] OR semistructured[TIAB] OR unstructured[TIAB] OR informal[TIAB] OR “in-depth”[TIAB] OR indepth[TIAB] OR “face-to-face”[TIAB] OR structured[TIAB] OR guide[TIAB] OR guides[TIAB]) AND (interview*[TIAB] OR discussion*[TIAB] OR questionnaire*[TIAB])) OR (“focus group”[TIAB] OR “focus groups”[TIAB] OR qualitative[TIAB] OR ethnograph*[TIAB] OR fieldwork[TIAB] OR “field work”[TIAB] OR “key informant”[TIAB])) OR “interviews as topic”[Mesh] OR “focus groups”[Mesh] OR narration[Mesh] OR qualitative research[Mesh] OR "personal narratives as topic"[Mesh]
*Sensitivity vs. Specificity: A highly 'sensitive' query will attempt to retrieve all relevant documents, resulting in a broader search, with a greater likelihood of generating false hits. A highly 'specific' 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.
MEDLINE records contain publication type metadata, allowing you to limit your search to only show records for publication types that are, by definition, most likely qualitative. Possible Publication Type values include:
To apply the filters for publication type in PubMed:
When searching using subject headings (and the field tags that look only in the subject field of records - e.g., [MeSH]), 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).
The following string of search 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*)
MEDLINE does not have suitable MeSH terms for mixed methods research. Search your topic with the following suggested, text words using the quotation marks and truncation symbol*: