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Qualitative Research Methods


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



This is a broad introductory course for students about the features of qualitative research methods prevalent in social, political, and environmental sciences, humanities and socio-legal research. The range of epistemological dimensions for qualitative research are large, including positivist, interpretivist and realist. This course will cover these different epistemological positions, your positionality and how they inform the overall design of research, analysis and writing.

Students in this course will understand how qualitative methods relate to social research inquiry that has the elucidation of meaning at its core. The course is designed as a hands-on sequence of conceptual reflections and empirical experimentation built around each student’s individual project. Students will design and implement their individual research projects to practice some key qualitative data collection methods; students will also analyse collected data and critically discuss it. The ethical dimensions of their selected methods and analysis approaches as well as their involvement as researchers will be included.

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. Data collection methods discussed during the course include participant observation, (digital) visual methods, interviews, and focus groups. Different types of qualitative data analysis (such as thematic, narrative and discourse analysis) will enable students to make sense of their findings, with attention also paid to the process of coding, as well as the ‘whos’ and ‘hows’ of data presentation. Throughout the course, the students will learn how to select specific methods best suited for their research topic, use them to collect relevant data, analyse the data, and reflect on ethics and positionality/biases. 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


  • 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 and how a qualitative approach is suitable for addressing its objective

  • Describe the ethical and epistemological dimensions of qualitative research

  • Reflect on the design and execution of a self-guided qualitative research 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 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will consist of a mix of lectures, class discussions, workshops, and small group meetings with the instructor.

This course is project-based, meaning that the same project will be used by every student throughout the whole block. Each student will work during the block to learn and apply different qualitative research methods, analyse the data and critically discuss the findings.

Assessment Method

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

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

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

Reading list

To be announced.


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,



  • Dr. Marco Cinelli,

  • Dr. Jyothi Thrivikraman,


  • Dr. Marco Cinelli, (Block 1)

  • Dr. Jyothi Thrivikraman, (Block 1)

  • Dr. David Zetland, Zetland, (Block 2)

  • Dr. Jiyan Qiao, (Block 2)

  • Dr. Neske Baerwaldt, (Block 3)

  • Dr. Maryla Klajn, (Block 4)