Real qualitative researchers do not count: the use of numbers in qualitative research

Res Nurs Health. 2001 Jun;24(3):230-40. doi: 10.1002/nur.1025.


Two myths about qualitative research are that real qualitative researchers do not count and cannot count. These antinumber myths have led to the underutilization of numbers in qualitative research and to the simplistic view of qualitative research as non- or antinumber. Yet numbers are integral to qualitative research, as meaning depends, in part, on number. As in quantitative research, numbers are used in qualitative research to establish the significance of a research project, to document what is known about a problem, and to describe a sample. But they are also useful for showcasing the labor and complexity of qualitative work and to generate meaning from qualitative data; to document, verify, and test researcher interpretations or conclusions; and to re-present target events and experiences. Although numbers are important in the treatment of qualitative data, qualitative researchers should avoid the counting pitfalls of verbal counting, overcounting, misleading counting, and acontextual counting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Data Collection*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nursing Research / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / psychology