Qualitative Description Research: An Examination of a Method for Novice Nursing Researchers


  • Niall Tamayo
  • Annette Lane
  • Georgia Dewart


According to Bradshaw, Atkinson, and Doody (2017), a qualitative description (QD) design focuses primarily on describing and defining an often new phenomenon in order to provide basic information about the who, what, where, and why of the experience from the particular viewpoint from those involved. As a method, QD offers an accessible approach to qualitative research for many beginning nursing researchers but has been often overlooked or confused with other traditional descriptive methods such as case study, phenomenology, grounded theory, and ethnography. Given the value and applicability to the nursing profession, the two-fold purpose of this paper is: (a) to provide novice and student nursing researchers with a robust understanding of the QD approach to help guide their research activities and apply research findings within practice settings, and (b) to offer a comparative analysis of QD in relation to other qualitative approaches. Drawing from the literature, we present an in-depth overview of this QD approach by focusing on its purpose, guiding principles, and the steps of the research process.