MY421      Half Unit
Qualitative Research Methods

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Eleanor Knott COL.7.08 (MT) and Dr Jennifer Tarr COL.8.06 (LT)


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Demography/Population Studies, MPhil/PhD in Psychological and Behavioural Science, MSc in Applied Social Data Science, MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Global Health Policy, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Marketing and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.



Course content

This course presents the fundamentals of qualitative research methods. 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. It prepares students to design, carry out, report, read and evaluate qualitative research projects. First, students learn how to collect data using methods including interviews, focus groups participant observation, and selecting documents and new media data. Second, we cover analysis, using thematic, content, and discourse analysis. Issues of research design, quality indicators, epistemology and ethics are addressed.

This is a generalist, introductory course and we invite students who have little previous experience of qualitative methods. Students with prior training in qualitative methods might be interested in more specialist alternatives offered by the Department of Methodology, such as MY425 Case Studies and Comparative Methods for Qualitative Research, MY426 Doing Ethnography, MY427 Qualitative Research with Non-Traditional Data, or MY428 Qualitative Text Analysis. 

Lectures introduce the main conceptual and practical issues. Seminars provide practical experience with the methods.


15 hours of lectures and 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 13 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 in Week 7.

Indicative reading

  • Maria J Mayan (2009) Essentials in qualitative inquiry, Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
  • 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 of data collection and analysis 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 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: 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

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 74%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)