Qualitative research gathers information on human behavior and then explores its implications. Research in nursing topics is used to broaden the pool of knowledge in the field. Investigators use qualitative research methods to develop and refine nursing care and to give the nursing field more credibility.

Qualitative Research Goals

Qualitative research is an expanding area of interest in nursing. Researchers examine the what, where and when of their topic, and pay special attention to the why and how. Looking at why people do what they do and how they do it is intrinsic to the research. Good research starts with a strong hypothesis and works to prove or disprove it. One way to formulate a research hypothesis is to chose a topic and an outcome: for example, "Antidepressants improve mental well-being."

Senior Patients

One important research topic in the nursing field concerns issues faced by elderly patients. Researchers explore the effects of medications on patients' lifestyles, elder abuse in the system and outside it, and depression in residents of senior living facilities. A hypothesis for this subject may look at depression in senior patients who have family visit them and those who do not. A sample hypothesis may be, "Senior patients who have family visit them on a regular basis are less prone to depression than those who do not have regular visitors."


Qualitative researchers also study the relationship between stress and factors that cause or prevent it. Research addresses the ways in which stress affects people's behavior, performance, health and relationships. A research hypothesis dealing with stress in patients may include looking at their reasons for being under medical care and how stress affects their day-to-day life. For example, a hypothesis may state, "Patients who need long-term care and can't continue with their previous commitments feel stress because of lack of control in their lives."


Medication is a prime topic in nursing care. Qualitative researchers look at what medication does to a patient and how environmental factors affect its efficacy. Many types of medications are used in nursing, so the area presents an array of subjects for researchers. They may formulate a hypothesis about a particular medication and its effects on patients, or compare and contrast two similar medications.

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