The challenges of searching for and retrieving qualitative studies

West J Nurs Res. 2003 Mar;25(2):153-78. doi: 10.1177/0193945902250034.


The authors' purpose in this article is to report the results of their search and retrieval efforts to date in an ongoing study to develop the procedural, analytic, and interpretive techniques to conduct qualitative meta-synthesis projects, using studies on women with HIV infection as the method case. For researchers conducting qualitative meta-synthesis projects, the ideal goal is to retrieve all of the relevant studies in a field--not simply a sample of them. Bates's model of berrypicking is used as the framework to describe the techniques used to conduct these searches. The authors discuss, in particular, the challenges of working with bibliographic databases, including choosing which databases to search, learning about the idiosyncrasies of working with each database, developing a list of search terms, and refining inclusion criteria regarding which studies to include in the meta-synthesis. Recommendations are given for searchers and writers of qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Review Literature as Topic*