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Evidence Based Practice

About qualitative research

Qualitative research looks at meaning, perspectives and motivations rather than cause and effect. It typically has a smaller sample sizes and uses focus groups, interviews, and/or observation. The data it collects are "words" while Quantitative research collects "numbers". Several methodologies have been developed for qualitative research. For more information on Qualitative Research, see Synthesis of Qualitative Research or Qualitative Research or Qualitative Research Methods Overview for more information.

In terms of searching the literature, you develop your qualitative research question first. Then, you can use the acronym SPIDER to help you identify the terms to search. Unlike quantitative research, there are no resources that provide filtered information for qualitative research. You will need to go to resources that provide unfiltered information to specifically find qualitative research.

SPIDER Search Tool

SPIDER is an alternative system for defining a research question to PICO. For more information see

Cooke, A., Smith, D., & Booth, A. (2012, October 1, 2012). Beyond PICO: The SPIDER Tool for qualitative evidence synthesis. Qualitative Health Research, 22(10), 1435-1443. doi:10.1177/1049732312452938

S= Sample

P,I =Phenomen of Interest

D= Design

E= Evaluation

R=Research Type

EXAMPLE from Cooke et al above:


Appraising Qualitative Research