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Features of Qualitative Research

Setting: Natural environment

Samples: Small groups or individuals

Data: Observational texts, notes, interviews

Interventions: None--looking for themes

Examples: Ethnography, biography, phenomenology, case study, grounded theory, case report, lived experience

What to look for: Interviews, open-ended questions, experiences, research gathered through observation and interviews, coding

Features of Quantitative Research

SettingLab or controlled setting

Samples: Large, often with control groups and blinding

Data: Numeric data analyzed using statistical methods

Interventions: Predetermined, fixed variables

Examples: Quasi-experimental research, experimental research, randomized control trials, retrospective research, case-control study, control trial, cohort study, clinical trial

What to look for: Research question, hypothesis, intervention and variables, valid instrument (including surveys) to measure results, sample/control, data analysis/statistics

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

NOTE: Check to see if the study type is at the top or in the title.

If so, skip to questions 3a & 3b.

1. Does it have Method and Results sections?


a) If not, the article is secondary research (typically a review).

b) If it does have Method and Results sections, continue to step 2.



2. In the Method section, does it talk about a literature search strategy?


a) If you answered yes, it is a systematic review or meta-analysis.

b) If you answered no, and that section describes a research study
(research participants, an intervention, etc.), 
it is original research. Continue to step 3 to determine its type.



STEP 3: Now, let's determine what type of original research this is.


3a. In the Method section, is the study described as an interview, observation, or questionnaire? Does the study involve looking into self-reported beliefs, thoughts, etc.?

aIf you answered yes, it’s a qualitative study.

b) If you answered no, see 3b.

3b. In the Method section, does the study describe the use of already-existing data (for example, reviewing patient admissions from the past 3 months)?

aIf you answered yes, it’s a retrospective study.

b) If you answered no, see 3c.


3c. In the Method or Results sections/areas, does it mention using quantitative analyses or statistical tests (e.g., ANOVA, t-test, p values)?



aIf you answered yes, it’s a quantitative study.

b) If you answered no, it’s qualitative.


BONUS. Are 3a AND 3c both true?  In other words, does the study use BOTH  quantitative and qualitative methods?

If so, it's a mixed methods study.


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