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Qualitative Research Methods




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


This course in qualitative research methods focuses on the range of data collection and analysis approaches encompassed by “ethnographic methods.” Ethnography is the study of culture(s) through participant-observation, interviews, and other methods standard in “fieldwork.” Ethnographic research is carried out by researchers who become temporary participants in the social settings they decide to study. Ethnographic data analysis allows the researchers to understand and communicate to others the symbolic and contextual meanings that belie the routines and practices of everyday life. Doing ethnography in other cultures means that the researcher has to understand and sensitively represent the “insider” perspective of the members of that culture. Doing ethnography in one’s own culture means that the researcher has to “make the familiar strange” and illuminate and explicate the implicit aspects of culture that are taken for granted. Students will learn an array of practical qualitative methods that comprise the ethnographic approach, through a study of relevant literature, and through undertaking a six-week ethnographic research project in Den Haag, or in its surroundings. In addition to field methods, students will learn how discourse analysis, media analysis, and policy analysis are incorporated into ethnographic research.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, the students will:

  • Gain knowledge of and insight into the range of ethnographic methods of data collection and

  • Learn how to articulate research objectives and approaches tailored to specific research

  • Master qualitative research skills like sampling, interviewing, participant-observation, writing
    field notes, etcetera

  • Learn to critically reflect on research design

  • Have an understanding of research ethics when working with human subjects, including
    concepts of informed consent, transparency, and accountability

Mode of Instruction

This course will have theoretical and practical components. Each week the students will focus on a specific aspect of ethnographic research, or on a specific qualitative method. At the same time, after the first week of the course, each student will find a field site where they will conduct ethnographic research until the end of week 7, putting into practice the theoretical knowledge they will gain each week. The course will take place in a seminar format. Inclass time will be divided between short lectures on methodology, discussions of readings, and reports from the field, peer feedback, and general “workshopping” of the students’ ongoing ethnographic projects.


The students will be assessed based on their consistent engagement with the theoretical and practical aspects of the course, reflected by their in-class participation during discussions of the reading, and their ongoing ethnographic work, reflected by their weekly web postings, and their in-class discussion of their own ethnographic project, and peer feedback on the projects of other students. They will also be assessed on their eventual ability to report and reflect on their own research process, as expressed in a final in-class presentation that will take place during week 7, and their holistic integration of the theoretical and applied knowledge gained in the course, as well as their writing skills, as demonstrated in the writing of their final ethnographic report.

Assessment: In-class participation including in-class “reports from the field”
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing, weeks 1-7

Assessment: Weekly web-postings (200-300 words)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Weeks 1 – 7, Mondays at 23:59

Assessment: In-class presentation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Week 7

Assessment: Final ethnographic report (2500-3000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week8, Friday at 17:00


Students should purchase a copy of “Ethnography Step-by-Step: Third Edition” by David M. Fetterman (SAGE Publications). Additional readings will be provided in an electronic format.

Contact Information


Weekly Overview

Week 1
Introduction, methods overview, selecting a fieldsite
Week 2
Ethics in research with human subjects
Week 3
Participant-observation, writing field notes
Week 4
Questionnaire design and administration
Week 5
Semi-structured interviews and life history interviews
Week 6
Data analysis: coding, content analysis, patterns; context analysis integration (discourse analysis,
media analysis)
Week 7
In-class presentations, preparing to write the final ethnographic report

Preparation for first session