A quantitative analysis of qualitative studies in clinical journals for the 2000 publishing year

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2004 Jul 22:4:11. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-4-11.


Background: Quantitative studies are becoming more recognized as important to understanding health care with all of its richness and complexities. The purpose of this descriptive survey was to provide a quantitative evaluation of the qualitative studies published in 170 core clinical journals for 2000.

Methods: All identified studies that used qualitative methods were reviewed to ascertain which clinical journals publish qualitative studies and to extract research methods, content (persons and health care issues studied), and whether mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative methods) were used.

Results: 60 330 articles were reviewed. 355 reports of original qualitative studies and 12 systematic review articles were identified in 48 journals. Most of the journals were in the discipline of nursing. Only 4 of the most highly cited health care journals, based on ISI Science Citation Index (SCI) Impact Factors, published qualitative studies. 37 of the 355 original reports used both qualitative and quantitative (mixed) methods. Patients and non-health care settings were the most common groups of people studied. Diseases and conditions were cancer, mental health, pregnancy and childbirth, and cerebrovascular disease with many other diseases and conditions represented. Phenomenology and grounded theory were commonly used; substantial ethnography was also present. No substantial differences were noted for content or methods when articles published in all disciplines were compared with articles published in nursing titles or when studies with mixed methods were compared with studies that included only qualitative methods.

Conclusions: The clinical literature includes many qualitative studies although they are often published in nursing journals or journals with low SCI Impact Factor journals. Many qualitative studies incorporate both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics*
  • Biomedical Research / methods
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Research / methods
  • Health Services Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Nursing Research / methods
  • Nursing Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Periodicals as Topic / classification
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design