NUR 3510: Evidence-Based Nursing Practice: Understanding Research

Quantitative vs Qualitative

Nursing research is usually either "quantitative" or "qualitative."  The first article below from the AORN journal describes these two different research methods. The sample articles below include both qualitative and quantitative studies.

Quantitative research: An experiment is conducted from which data are collected and quantified in some fashion, i.e. counted, analyzed numerically (e.g. effectiveness of a treatment).

Qualitative research: The data collected is more descriptive of people's beliefs, attitudes, etc. and is gathered through methods such as interviews and focus groups.

Sample Articles:

Beyea, Suzanne C., and Leslie H. Nicoll. (1997). Qualitative and quantitative approaches to nursing research. AORN Journal, 66(2), 323.

Sheahan, S., & Fields, B. (2008). Sodium dietary restriction, knowledge, beliefs, and decision-making behavior of older females. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 20(4), 217-224.

Tracy, S., Dufault, M., Kogut, S., Martin, V., Rossi, S., & Willey-Temkin, C. (2006). Translating best practices in nondrug postoperative pain management. Nursing Research, 55(2S), S57-67. (Print copy in library)

Original Research

"An empirical research article is an article which reports research based on actual observations or experiments. The research may use quantitative research methods, which generate numerical data and seek to establish causal relationships between two or more variables. Empirical research articles may use qualitative research methods, which objectively and critically analyze behaviors, beliefs, feelings, or values with few or no numerical data available for analysis."


Articles that discuss original research have the following format:

  • Title
  • Abstract
    • The abstract provides a summary of the article and should mention a study, an observation, an analysis or a number of participants or subjects.
  • Introduction / Literature Review
    • This section discusses the previous, relevant research in this particular area of study.  It places the current study in context.
  • Methods / Methodology
    • The methodology section explains the methods used in the current experiment so it can be replicated. 
  • Results
    • The results section lists the results of the authors' study.  This section often contains tables and charts.
  • Discussion / Conclusion
    • The discussion section is where the authors get to put their results in context and discuss why their research is significant. 
  • References
    • All peer reviewed journal articles have a list of references at the end.These are the studies to which the authors referred in the literature review.