SO492      Half Unit
Qualitative Social Research Methods

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Carrie Friese STC S213


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Culture and Society. This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Cities Programme, MPhil/PhD in Sociology, MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Economy and Society, MSc in Political Sociology and MSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Students who have this course as a core course are guaranteed a place. Other than for students for whom the course is a core course, places are allocated based on a written statement, with priority given students on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Economy and Society, MSc in Political Sociology, MSc in Sociology, MPhil/PhD in Cities Programme and MPhil/PhD in Sociology. As demand is typically high, this may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.

Course content

The course introduces students to the theory and practice of qualitative research methods in sociology. The seminars address issues of research design, data collection and analysis in relation to qualitative research methods, including ethnography, in-depth interviewing, and textual analysis. Taking these methods together, we will build toward an understanding of best practice in qualitative inquiry. Based on the principle that doing is one of the best means of learning, this course is highly interactive and requires ‘hands-on’ participation in a series of practical exercises and project work throughout the term. A syllabus detailing course objectives, course style, readings, teaching arrangements and student assessment will be distributed at the beginning of the term.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the MT.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students must write a 1,000 word book review of a qualitative research study.

Indicative reading

  • Luker, K. 2008. Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Info-Glut. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Small, M. 2009. ‘How Many Cases Do I Need? On the Science and Logic of Case Selection in Field-Based Research.’ Ethnography 10: 5-38.
  • Lamont, M. and A. Swidler. 2014. ‘Methodological Pluralism and the Possibilities and Limits of Interviewing.’ Qualitative Sociology 37(2): 153-171.
  • Jerolmack, C. and S. Khan. 2014. ‘Talk is Cheap: Ethnography and the Attitudinal Fallacy.’ Sociological Methods & Research 43(2): 178-209.
  • Weiss, R.S. 1994. Learning from Strangers: The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies.
  • Emerson, R.M., R.I. Fretz, and L.L. Shaw. 2011. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes (2nd edition). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Stanley, L. 2017. The Archive Project: Archival Research in the Social Sciences, edited by Niamh Moore, Andrea Salter, Liz Stanley, and Maria Tamboukou.
  • Seale, C. 1999. The Quality of Qualitative Research. Chapter 11, ‘Reflexivity and Writing,’ pp. 159-177.
  • Burawoy, M. 1998. ‘The Extended Case Method.’ Sociological Theory 16:4-33.
  • Snow, D.A., C. Morrill, and L. Anderson. 2003. ‘Elaborating Analytic Ethnography: Linking Fieldwork and Theoretical Development.’ Ethnography 4: 271-290.


Research report (90%) in the LT.
Class participation (10%) in the MT.

The assessment consists of class participation in MT and an individual qualitative research report in the LT.

An electronic copy of the assessed report, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on Wednesday Week 5 of LT.

Participation will be assessed based on students’ engagement with course activities, including for example in-class discussions, class assignments, and contributions to online discussion boards.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 21.2
Merit 56.6
Pass 21.7
Fail 0.5

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2020/21: 59

Average class size 2020/21: 33

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

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