Qualitative research is often used to explore and understand people’s beliefs, experiences, attitudes, behavior, and interactions. Qualitative approaches seek to understand why people think or act the way that they do.
This guide will provide you with a list of potential sources that can be used to find qualitative research in the education literature, and with tips for searching these sources effectively, with the goal of finding high quality, qualitative studies.
For a more comprehensive list of education resources available, see the Education Research Guide
For the full list of education-related databases head to the main education guide.
Many databases index journals that publish qualitative studies. A few of the best choices available here at UD include:
JSTOR (particularly useful for historical studies from core journals)
Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (useful for ESL/ foreign language instruction, linguistics, and literacy research)
Web of Science Allows researchers to sort articles by times cited, locating high-impact content.
A database which does not index journals, but rather dissertations, can also be a great choice when searching for qualitative methodologies. There are two to choose from:
Although qualitative studies are sometimes flagged as "qualitative" in either the title or the subject headings, this is not always true. Researchers must be creative and flexible in order to find qualitative research, particularly in the ERIC database. Think about searching with terms that might indicate a qualitative approach.
Such terms might include methods by which researchers gather qualitative data:
They can also include terms that are likely to describe a certain qualitative approach:
Most databases such as ERIC, PsycInfo, and Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts will have a thesaurus that can help guide you to the words and phrases that are used to group articles together by their main ideas and (sometimes) by their methodologies. You can search these thesauri directly in the databases to discover relevant words to use in your search (see the 'Finding a Subject Term' tutorial). A simpler but equally effective way to discover relevant subject terms is to examine the subject terms that appear within your search results:
Note that different databases use different subject terms- each database has its own vocabulary.
AND vs. OR: Use AND to connect search terms when you want both of those terms to appear in your results. Use OR when searching for synonymous terms such as inclusive classrooms OR mainstreaming.
Phrases: When searching for a phrase such as "special education" or "Race to the Top", enclose that phrase in quotation marks, as I have done here. This signals the database to search for the words in the order specified. In short, it is a great way to specify that you are looking specifically for that phrase, and not just for the individual words within it.
Truncation: When you are searching for a word with many endings (ex: Differentiate, Differentiation, Differentiated, Differentiating), use truncation to search for all forms of a word at once:
Search engine specifically for scholarly journal articles, books, dissertations, and technical reports.