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Qualitative Research Methods




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: similarly-tagged 100/200-level courses or permission from the instructor.

Course description

Gaining knowledge about social configurations and processes within highly complex and diverse contexts requires a structured, comprehensive and coherent approach. Investigations of the social world thus necessitate reflections on the process of social research, its tools and the use of its results. Various research methods aim to assist in understanding people’s motivations of actions or experiences of structures. Qualitative research approaches in particular allow an analysis of the meaning given or implied in social actions and the structures enabling or challenging them. In this course we will explore the specific possibilities offered by qualitative approaches to social research. We will discuss the goals and advantages related to the use of various methods and methodologies. Since research methods only become meaningful when they are applied in particular settings we will practice the use of some of the most commonly used methods. In particular we will exercise the use of interviews and the ways interviews can be analysed. However, the use of particular methods also creates challenges and shortcomings. We will thus employ a reflective, evaluative approach in discussing and practicing the various stages of the research process: the planning, setting up, carrying out, analysing and reporting of results. The course thus not only provides an overview of the different approaches but encourages a critical reflection on the use of particular methods in students’ own work and in other people’s studies. This also allows a more critical, informed and skilled use of qualitative research results in political and public debates.

Weekly overview

Week 1: Exploring the social – searching for meaning: Research Strategies and Qualitative Research
Week 2: Interviews I: Planning and carrying out interviews
Week 3: Interviews: II: Analysing qualitative interviews
Week 4: Group Interviews and Focus Groups
Week 5: Participant and non-participant observation
Week 6: Discourse Analysis
Week 7: Making sense of qualitative research: evaluating, reporting and reflecting

Learning objectives

  • Students will gain an understanding of the advantages and challenges related to qualitative research methods.

  • Students will get to know the diversity and variety of qualitative methods and the advantages and disadvantages related to them.

  • Student will develop basic research skills in different methods.

  • Students will be in a position to reflect on, critique and evaluate the use of qualitative research in their own work and in other studies.

Compulsory textbook

Esterberg, Kristin (2002), Qualitative Methods in Social Research, Boston: McGraw-Hill, ISBN10: 0767415604; ISBN13: 9780767415606

Additional reading for each session will be made available digitally.