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Occupational Therapy: Quantitative or Qualitative


A research article describes an original study that the author(s) conducted themselves.

It will include a brief literature review, but the main focus of the article is to describe the theoretical approach, methods, and results of the authors' own study.

Look at the abstract or full text of the journal article and look for the following:

  • Was data collected?
  • Were there surveys, questionnaires, interviews, interventions (as in a clinical trial)?
  • Is there a population?
  • Is there an outline of the methodology used?
  • Are there findings or results?
  • Are there conclusions and a discussion of the significance?

Research articles use a standard format to clearly communicate information about an experiment. A research article usually has 7 major sections:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction/Objective
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusion

A research article has a hypothesis, a method for testing the hypothesis, a population on which the hypothesis was tested, results or findings, and a discussion or conclusion.






Research that seeks to provide understanding of human experience, perceptions, motivations, intentions, and behaviors based on description and observation and utilizing a naturalistic interpretative approach to a subject and its contextual setting.

Research based on traditional scientific methods, which generates numerical data and usually seeks to establish causal relationships between two or more variables, using statistical methods to test the strength and significance of the relationships.


Observations described in words

Observations measured in numbers

Start With:

A situation the researcher can observe

A testable hypothesis

Goals of study design:

Participants are comfortable with the researcher.  They are honest and forthcoming, so that the researcher can make robust observations.

Others can repeat the findings of the study

Variables are defined and correlations between them are studied


If the researcher is biased, or is expecting to find certain results, it can be difficult to make completely objective observations

Researchers may be so careful about measurement methods that they do not make connections to a greater context

Some Methods:

Open-ended interviews

Focus groups


Participant observation

Close-ended interviews


Clinical Trials

Laboratory Experiments


From A Dictionary of Nursing


Mixed methods research combines quantitative and qualitative research methods in a single study. The use of mixed methods research is increasingly popular in nursing and health sciences research. This growth in popularity has been driven by the increasing complexity of research problems relating to human health and wellbeing.


Review articles summarize the current state of research on a subject by organizing, synthesizing, and critically evaluating the relevant literature. They tell what is currently known about an area under study and place what is known in context. This allows the researcher to see how their particular study fits into a larger picture.

Review articles are NOT original research articles. Instead, they are a summary of many other original research articles. When your teacher tells you to obtain an "original research article"or to use a primary source, do not use an article that says review.

Review articles may include a bibliography that will lead you back to the primary research reported in the article.


Systematic Review - A systematic review is conducted to answer specific, often narrow clinical questions. These questions are formulated according to the mnemonic PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes). A systematic review involves the identification, selection, appraisal and synthesis of the best available evidence for clinical decision making. A properly conducted systematic review uses reproducible, preplanned strategies to reduce bias and instill rigor and pools of information from both published and unpublished sources. A quantitative systematic review uses staistical methods to combine results of multiple systems, and may or may not be a meta-analysis.

It is not unusual now to find more that one systematic review addressing the same or similar questions paving the way for meta-summary or meta-study, a systematic review of systematic review.

Encyclopedia of Nursing Research



Integrative Review - a specific review method that summarizes past empirical or theoretical literature to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a particular phenomenon or healthcare problem. The integrative review method is an approach that allows for the inclusion of diverse methodologies and has the potential to play a greater role in evidence-based practice for nursing. 

Whittemore & Knafl, 2005


Meta-Analysis - a quantitative approach that permits the synthesis and integration of results from multiple individual studies focused on a specific research question. The outcome of this quantitative approach for reviewing literature has tremendous potential for a practice-based discipline such as nursing.

Encyclopedia of Nursing Research


Evidence Based Medicine - The practice of health care in which the practioner systematically finds, appraises, and uses the most current and valid research findings as the basis for clinical decisions. 

Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing & Health Professions

Phenomenology - As a research method, phenomenology is inductive and descriptive. Phenomenology provides a closer fit conceptually with clinical nursing and with the kinds of research questions that emerge from clinical practice than does quantitative research. The goal is to describe the meaning of human experience. In its focus on meaning, phenomenology differs from other types of rsearch, which may, for example, focus on statistical realtionships among variables. Phenomenology tries to discover meanings as persons live them in their everyday world.

Encyclopedia of Nursing Research

Etiology - the study of all factors that may be involved in the development of a disease, including the susceptibility of the patient, the nature of the disease agent, and the way in which the patient’s body is invaded by the agent.

Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Professions