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NUR 2510: Evidence-Based Nursing Practice: Understanding Research

Quantitative vs Qualitative

Nursing research is usually either "quantitative" or "qualitative." 

Quantitative research: An experiment is conducted from which data are collected and quantified in some fashion, i.e. counted, or analyzed numerically.

Look for words like these: Compare, Assess, Evaluate, Measure, Test

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.

Look for words like these: Identify, Explore, Describe, Explain

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

Sample Articles:


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.


Zheng, R., Fu, Y., Zhu, J., Xu, J., Xiang, Q., Chen, L., … Yu, C. (2018). Long-term low-dose morphine for patients with moderate cancer pain is predominant factor effecting clinically meaningful pain reduction. Supportive Care in Cancer, 26(12), 4115–4120.

Locating qualitative research

To find articles reporting research conducted using qualitative methods, select a database in your subject area from our A-Z list at and see if the Advanced Search interface will allow you to select qualitative as a search limiter - for example, in CINAHL, you can select the Qualitative options under Clinical Queries, and in PsycINFO, you can select Qualitative Study under Methodology. If these limiters aren't available, you can add the keyword qualitative to your search. Or it may be necessary to review the scholarly articles you find on your topic to determine yourself if they are qualitative. 

More nursing resources

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 usually have the following format:

  • Abstract
    • Provides a summary of the article
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
    • Discusses the previous, relevant research in this particular area of study.  It places the current study in context.
  • Methods / Methodology
    • Explains the methods used in the current experiment. 
  • Results
    • Lists the results of this study.  Often contains tables and charts.
  • Discussion / Conclusion
    • The authors put their results in context and discuss why their research is significant. 
  • References

*From Literature Review Basics, University of Laverne Libraries

Helpful books