Distinguishing Features and Similarities Between Descriptive Phenomenological and Qualitative Description Research

Danny G. Willis, Susan Sullivan-Bolyai, Kathleen Knafl, Marlene Z. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Scholars who research phenomena of concern to the discipline of nursing are challenged with making wise choices about different qualitative research approaches. Ultimately, they want to choose an approach that is best suited to answer their research questions. Such choices are predicated on having made distinctions between qualitative methodology, methods, and analytic frames. In this article, we distinguish two qualitative research approaches widely used for descriptive studies: descriptive phenomenological and qualitative description. Providing a clear basis that highlights the distinguishing features and similarities between descriptive phenomenological and qualitative description research will help students and researchers make more informed choices in deciding upon the most appropriate methodology in qualitative research. We orient the reader to distinguishing features and similarities associated with each approach and the kinds of research questions descriptive phenomenological and qualitative description research address.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1204
Number of pages20
JournalWestern Journal of Nursing Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016



  • phenomenology
  • qualitative methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)

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