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Finding qualitative research: Where to search?

Finding qualitative research

© Curtin University Library

Searching for qualitative research can sometimes be challenging. Some reasons include:

  • descriptive titles such as “Unbearable Incidents: Failure to Endure the Experience of Illness” make selection of specific key search terms more difficult
  • abstracts in qualitative articles may not be as structured and/or may not describe the research method
  • only using the search term qualitative could miss other methods such as focus groups, interview etc.
  • indexing in databases tends to be more robust for quantitative literature

Evans, D. Database searches for qualitative researchJ Med Libr Assoc. 2002 Jul; 90(3): 290–293.


Examples of qualitative research:

  • Stomski, N. J., Mackintosh, S. F., & Stanley, M. (2014). The experience of acupuncture care from the perspective of people with chronic low back pain: a grounded theory study. Acupuncture in Medicine, 32(4), 333-339. 10.1136/acupmed-2013-010477
  • Dembinsky, Melanie. (2014). Exploring Yamatji perceptions and use of palliative care: an ethnographic study. International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 20(8), 387-393.


Search a range of national, regional and subject specific databases. Use the resources below:

Other desirable sources

  •  Reference lists in useful articles can be checked to find further articles 
  • Find related or find similar articles is another way to find additional articles.
  • Citation indexes such as Web of Science and Scopus allow you to track literature over a period of time and to see if a particular article has been cited since it was first published
  • Internet - An Internet search can identify websites of relevant organisations, companies, academic centres which can then be scanned for relevant research studies. It may be worthwhile to try more than one search engine as you can often get different results  even when using the same search terms.

Using database alerts to keep up-to-date

Alerts are an effective means of keeping track of the latest research. Many databases and journals offer free alert services through emails and RSS feeds. Types of alerts include:

  • Search alerts -this is a saved search which alerts you when a book or article that matches your search terms is published
  • Table of Contents (TOC) alert, which provides the table of contents of a newly published issue of a particular journal
  • Citation alerts which let you know when a particular article is cited by a new article.