How can I determine if an article is qualitative or quantitative?

Qualitative Research attempts to make meaning through observation. This kind of research can include:

  • biography
  • case studies
  • historical analysis
  • ethnography


Quantitative Research generates numerical data from observations and measurements of sample populations. Quantitative research can include

  • counting the number of times something is observed
  • surveys that include likert scales and other questions
  • Measuring the difference between numerical attributes of people people or things.

How can you tell what kind of research you're looking at?

First, look at the article's abstract. The abstract will often state if the article is qualitative or quantitative. If you don't see the methods listed in the abstract, look for the methods or methodology section of the article. This section will describe the how the study was conducted.

The abstract or methods section may not use the word qualitative or quantitative to describe the research. Often, researchers will use more specific terms, like case study or grounded theory. To learn more about a specific methodology, consult the SAGE Research Methods database. There, you'll learn if the methodology used in the article is considered qualitative or quantitative.

How do I find qualitative or quantitative articles?

Unfortunately, there is no filter to help you limit to qualitative or quantitative articles in library databases. Instead, you'll need to adjust your search terms to help limit your results.

To search for qualitative articles, try adding ("qualitative research" or "qualitative study") to your search. Additionally, you can also try adding search terms related to specific qualitative methods. Here are a few you can try:

  • "Narrative research"
  • "Case study"
  • Ethnography
  • "Grounded theory"
  • "focus group interview"
  • "discourse analysis"
  • Observations

To search for quantitative studies, try adding ("quantitative research" or "quantitative study") to your search. Additionally, you can also try adding search terms related to specific quantitative methods. Here are a few you can try:

  • Survey or "survey instrument"
  • Experimental or quasi-experimental
  • Correlation or "correlational design"
  • Variables or factors

How can I eliminate mixed methods studies from my search results?

There is no perfect way to remove all mixed methods studies from your search results, but you can remove some of them by adding NOT "mixed methods" to your search statement:

Database screenshot showing a search for NOT "mixed methods" 

Alternatively, you can add NOT quantitative when you're searching for qualitative studies, and NOT qualitative when searching for quantitative studies.