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EDUC1100 Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods

Research Support

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Qualitative Methods

Qualitative research methods include:

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Observations
  • Case Studies

Additionally, you may consider a mixed-methods approach. Each approach has its benefits, which is outlined on this Qualitative Research: Methods page from Duke University Libraries



Build Your Search Around What You Want to Know

What is it that you want to know?

Why is your topic important to the scholarly conversation?

What do we know already?


Coming up with keywords and using search terms will help you fine tune your search so you avoid having too many results, or too few. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Select keywords
  • Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT
  • Put quotation marks around phrases or words that should show up in results together, such as "labor union". In this case, a search will be done for both labor and union -- in that order.
  • Use parentheses to group similar terms together if you are not sure what term might be used in a search, such as (college OR university). In this case, a search will be done for results that contain either college or university in the results. 
  • Use an asterisk as a wild card to search for a term that may have many variations, such as graduat*. In this case, all terms that start with graduat will be found, including graduate, graduates, graduating, graduation, etc.

Build Strong Search Terms

1) Be specific.

Use similar terms, synonyms, or specific terminology. For example, instead of using eating disorders you might use anorexia or bulimia. Or, use specific terms like eating disorders in the 1980s among men. Keep a list of keywords that work.

2) Link your terms in specific ways.

Use AND, OR, NOT to control search rankings and results. A better search phrase might be: anorexia AND eating disorders AND 1980s AND men.

3) Get rid of what you don’t need or want.

Since anorexia is a specific type of eating disorder, we really don’t need to include "eating disorders" as well.

4) Broaden terms to capture variation with * (asterisk).

Example, a search for grad* will search for a variety of terms that build on the stem such as graduate, graduating, graduates, etc. 

5) Search for phrases

Search for words that should always appear in a particular sequence, search for the entire phrase by using quotation marks. "Eating disorders" will look for those two words as a phrase instead of looking for eating and disorders as separate words.