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EDU703 Methods of Qualitative Research: Finding Qualitative Research

Books on qualitative research theory

These are books that are immediately available to you, either online or in the LNDL library. You also have access to hundreds of other relevant books from the USMAI group of libraries. 

Search strategies

Keywords and tips to help you find qualitative research:

  • Putting quotations around a phrase will search for the entire phrase
    • For example, searching "constant comparative method" will bring up results with that exact phrase. Without quotes, some results might only include the word comparative.
Adapted with permission from the University of Maryland.
action research ethnography hermeneutics observational method

case studies

ethnological research heuristic participant observation
cluster sample ethnomethodology interviews phenomenology
constant comparative method evaluation methods life experience purposive sample
content analysis field studies lived experience qualitative
descriptive research focus groups narrative semiotics
discourse analysis grounded theory naturalistic observation thematic analysis

Using subject terms

Databases usually use a controlled vocabulary to describe the main ideas of journal articles in a standardized, consistent way. These are often called "descriptors", "subject terms", or "subject headings". You can use these terms as an additional way to find articles that are very relevant to your search terms. Here's an example from ERIC. 

In the screenshot below, the location of the descriptors for this particular article is highlighted. You can see that "SU Descriptors" is selected from the drop-down menu next to the search box as well. (By doing so, I am searching ONLY the descriptors field. This means that if I were to search for a term that is NOT an assigned descriptor in ERIC (for example, "ethnomethodology"), I will get zero results.)

This is a good way to: 1) find articles that are "very much about" your search term 2) determine what terminology the database uses to describe a particular concept.

Depicts a search result in ERIC with the descriptors search functions highlighted.






The search process

It can be helpful to remember that researching is not linear and won't be perfect. Here are our suggestions:

  1. Do a keyword search. Type in your search terms, whatever they might be, and see what you get!
  2. Check the subject terms. What subject terms are showing up in the most relevant articles? 
  3. Try another search. Search using the subject terms with "SU Descriptor" selected, or try another general keyword search. 
  4. Check the references. What articles are cited in the most relevant articles you're seeing? 

And repeat! 

Remember, we're here to help make the search process go smoothly.