MY421      Half Unit
Qualitative Research Methods

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Flora Cornish COL8.09 and Dr Jennifer Tarr COL8.06


This course is compulsory on the MPhil/PhD in Social Psychology, MSc in Health, Community and Development and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research) and MSc in Inequalities and Social Science. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course presents the fundamentals of qualitative research methods. It prepares students to design, carry out, report, read and evaluate qualitative research projects. Students learn how to collect data using methods including interviewing, focus groups, participant observation, and documentary and historical work. The challenges and opportunities of new media including visual images and Internet research are discussed. We then cover analysis, using thematic, content, discourse, and semiotic analysis. Issues of research design, quality indicators, epistemology and ethics are addressed. The course has the dual aims of equipping students with conceptual understandings of current academic debates regarding qualitative methods, and with practical skills to put those methods into practice.

Lectures introduce the main conceptual and practical issues. Seminars provide practical experience with the methods. A workbook details the seminar activities - and provides the guidance and basis for the formative and summative assignments.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the LT.

The course runs twice per year: in MT (MY421M) and again in LT (MY421L). The content of the course is exactly the same in each term. Week 6 is a Reading Week during which students work independently on their formative assignments.

Formative coursework

Students submit a portion of their practical work, with some written commentary, for formative assessment. The practical work is structured by a workbook, and is the focus of the seminars. It also forms the basis of the summative assessment.

Indicative reading

M Bauer & G Gaskell, (2000) Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound, London: Sage, U Flick, (2009) An Introduction to Qualitative Research, 4th edition, London: Sage. C Seale, G Gobo, JF Gubrium, & D Silverman, (2004). Qualitative Research Practice. London: Sage. Please Note: No single publication covers the whole content of the course.


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

The summative assignment is a small project, demonstrating skills in using some of the qualitative methods covered during the course. It takes the form of a project report, with detailed appendices documenting the methods used.

Teachers' comment

This course, which provides a strong grounding in the core qualitative research methods, is compulsory for some students. Among students who are committed to learning about qualitative methods, the course evaluates well. Over the last 3 years, the course has been progressively redesigned and improved by an energetic and committed team, with evaluations improving accordingly.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 98.7%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)