• electronic data;
  • pressure ulcers;
  • qualitative approaches;
  • quality of life;
  • search strategies

gorecki c.a., brown j.m., briggs m. & nixon j. (2010) Evaluation of five search strategies in retrieving qualitative patient-reported electronic data on the impact of pressure ulcers on quality of life. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(3), 645–652.


Aim.  This paper is a report of a study conducted to compare the effectiveness of qualitative methodology search strategies with subject-specific (health-related quality of life) search strategies in the retrieval of qualitative patient-reported data of the impact of pressure ulcers on health-related quality of life.

Background.  Methods to locate qualitative patient-reported health-related quality of life research data electronically have undergone little replication and validation. A major problem in searching for this type of data is that it is reported in accounts of both primary qualitative research as well as mixed methods research.

Data sources.  We combined five search strategies with terms for pressure ulcer and searched seven electronic databases from inception to October 2007.

Methods.  The sensitivity, specificity, precision and accuracy for each search strategy were assessed.

Results.  A subject-specific (health-related quality of life) search strategy, developed by us, had a high yield (100% sensitivity), but low specificity (<50%). The research methodology-based strategies had lower yields (sensitivity 72–83%) but high specificity (79–83%). Importantly, subject-specific search strategies identified all studies reporting qualitative patient-reported health-related quality of life data, whereas, research methodology-based strategies did not identify qualitative data reported in mixed method studies, making subject-based strategies more effective in retrieving qualitative patient-reported health-related quality of life research.

Conclusion.  An important consideration in the health-related quality of life field is that qualitative data are reported in both qualitative and mixed methodology research and searching for this type data involves trade-offs between yield, sensitivity and specificity. Accurate indexing of subject-specific outcomes and methodology used in electronic databases and publications is also needed.