Not available in 2016/17
MY529      Half Unit
Special Topics in Qualitative Research: Introspection-based Methods in Social Research

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Martin Bauer Col.8.04


The course is available to all research students.


The course will assume good knowledge of qualitative research methods as covered in MY521 and MY530.

Course content

Introspection comprises methods of empirically recording one’s own subjective experience; the currently on-going, or perhaps very recently past, mental or emotional states and processes through methods of trained and technically supported self-observation. Historically, introspection is part of a quest of human self-knowledge and self-improvement. And a person’s stream of consciousness is of interest in the social sciences, for example as reports of happiness or life satisfaction. Introspection has been difficult to verify, thus deemed not ‘objective’ and unscientific. The stream of consciousness (William James) was of interest mainly to literary elaboration. However, introspection-based methods survived and have re-emerged, not least because 1st person experience remains an indispensable source of evidence on an actor’s states and processes that constrain and give meaning to human action. Not least recent advance in neurosciences accentuates the need for experience-focussed 1st person methods. Modern introspection-based methods are ‘objectifications’ of 1st person situated experiences in controlled settings that support episodic retention. Modern introspection-based methods create conditions which make immediate, pre-meditated experience less ‘biased’ and more accurate to record. This comprises techniques such as narrative and episodic interviewing, free-association techniques, survey-based reconstruction and attitudes, critical incident techniques, loud-thinking protocols, experience sampling and self-tracking methods, ecological momentary assessment, self-confrontation interviewing, and 1st person situated video methods, and auto-ethnography and the ‘quantified self’. Many new techniques are mobile and adaptable to capture the fluid nature of mental and emotional states and processes. Miniature mobile devices for sound and video recording promise to overcome the bottlenecks that have hitherto plagued intensive and continuous introspection-based methods.

Learning Outcomes:

Students on this course will

1) appreciate the long past, and the short history of introspection-based methods;

2) be familiar with a range of techniques of collecting introspective data;

3) know the problems of introspection–based methods and how different methods try to overcome them;

4) gain practical skills with modern introspection-based methods.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Indicative reading

A complete reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course. 

Some key references

  • Bennett MR and PMS Hacker (2003) Philosophical foundations of neuroscience, Oxford, Blackwell; chapter 3.6-2.10 on introspection and 1st person perspective, pp90-107.
  • Danziger K (1979) The history of introspection reconsidered, Journal for the History of the Behavioural Sciences, 15,
  • Ericsson KA (2003) Valid and non-reactive verbalisations of thoughts during performance tasks: towards a solution to the central problems of introspections as a source of scientific data, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, 9-10, 1-18.
  • Hektner, J.M., Schmidt, J.A. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2006) Experience Sampling Method: Measuring the Quality of Everyday Life. Sage Publications, Inc, [selected chapters]
  • Kahneman D, AG Krueger, DA Schkade, N Schwarz, AA Stone (2004) A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: the Day Reconstruction Method, SCIENCE, 306, 3, Dec, 1776-1780.
  • Lahlou S (2011) How can we capture the subject’s perspective? An evidence-based approach for the social scientist, Social Science Information, 50, 4, 2-51.
  • Locke, EA (2009) It's time we brought introspection out of the closet, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 1, 24-25
  • Nisbet RE and Wilson  TDC (1977) Telling more than we can know: verbal reports on mental processes, Psychological Review, 84, 3, 231-258
  • Schooler JW. (2011) Introspecting in the spirit of William James: comment on Fox, Ericsson, and Best, Psychological Bulletin, 137 (2):345-50.
  • Stone AA, S Shiffman, A Atienza, and L Nebelling (2007) The science of real-time data capture: self-reports in health research, NY, Oxford University Press.
  • Turner DF and E Kraus (1978) Fallible indicators of the subjective state of the nation, American Psychologist, 33, 456-470.


Project (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

PhD students taking this course will be assessed on the basis of a small Research Project using an introspective method (3000 words).

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2015/16: Unavailable

Average class size 2015/16: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills