In search of more complete answers to research questions. Quantitative versus qualitative research methods: is there a way forward?

J Adv Nurs. 1991 Jun;16(6):718-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1991.tb01730.x.


This paper presents an overview of research methods utilized in nursing to date and traces the origins of the schism in nursing research which has led to the development of the quantitative-qualitative research-methods dichotomy. The philosophical and technical characteristics which distinguish these apparently opposing methodologies are described and critically discussed. The use of triangulation of different methods and types of data is suggested as an alternative research strategy. A study which used triangulation as a research approach which examined newly registered nurses' attitudes and educational preparation to care for patients with cancer, and developed and evaluated an educational intervention for nurses on cancer care, is described. This illustrates how the use of different research methods within a single study can provide a richer and deeper understanding of the area under investigation than would otherwise be possible. This paper also discusses the notion that nursing research has arrived at a watershed in which competing methodologies serve to divide and separate nurse researchers on the grounds of philosophical approach, a division which a neophyte discipline such as nursing can ill afford. Nurse researchers need to gain skills and understanding of different approaches to capitalize on the strengths and benefits of each in order to develop a more complete understanding of nursing practice in all its complexity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / methods
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Nursing Research / methods*
  • Nursing Theory
  • Research Design*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires