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Qualitative Research Methods


Admission requirements



This course introduces students to the features of qualitative research methods prevalent in social sciences, such as anthropology, human geography, public health, political science, gender studies, and sociology, but also across the humanities and socio-legal/empirical legal research, among others. Qualitative methods allow researchers to use a structured process that empirically addresses conceptual questions. Students in this course will understand how qualitative methods relate to social research inquiry and are an essential component of research design. The course is designed as a hands-on sequence of conceptual reflection and empirical experimentation built around each student’s individual project. Students will design and implement individual research projects using the qualitative data collection and data analysis methods taught in the course. Over the course duration, they will try out different qualitative methods, assess their practical and ethical dimensions, and learn how to conduct post-fieldwork qualitative data analysis, including different coding strategies, various types of qualitative content analysis (such as textual and narrative analysis, among others), and validation of results by using triangulation.

Learning to use qualitative methods is important because this type of methodology enables a comprehensive and empirically grounded understanding of the social world and social relations. Qualitative methods discussed will include: mapping as a step in their research design; data collection via interviewing, focus groups, participant observation, and digital (online) methods; and different types of qualitative content analysis (such as narrative or textual and discourse analysis), with special attention paid to the process of coding. Throughout the course the students will learn how to select the specific methods which are best suited for their research topic, use them to collect relevant data, analyse the collected data, and reflect on issues of ethics and positionality/bias. This course will thus cover epistemological aspects of qualitative research, and how these choices inform the kind of method and the strategy of analysis in the overall research design. The course assignments will take them through the stages of designing research, implementing the appropriate data collection and analysis techniques, and writing up their findings (including reflective exercises).

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, the students will be able to:

  • Distinguish between qualitative and quantitative methods

  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of different types of qualitative research methods

  • Operationalize a research question and determine if a qualitative approach is suitable for addressing its particular objective

  • Describe the ethical and epistemological dimensions of qualitative research

  • Reflect on the design and execution of a self-guided social science project, including reflecting on own biases and positionality

  • Peer review colleague’s work


  • Familiarity with different methods of data collection, processing, and analysis within the qualitative research

  • Ability to make informed choices regarding the benefits and pitfalls of different investigative approaches within the scope of qualitative methodologies,

  • Engage and reflect on the ethical implications of their qualitative research process

  • Critical assessment of core literature on qualitative research methods and relevant additional literature on the topic of their choice


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Assessment Method

  • In- class participation (on-going from week 1 to 7) 15%

  • Three short assignments, exploring different methods discussed in class (from week 2 to week 7) 3 × 15% = 45%

  • Final assignment based on original qualitative research conducted by student (in week 8) 40 %

Reading list



Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,