Not available in 2022/23
MY424      Half Unit
Advanced qualitative field methods for researching space and place

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alasdair Jones Col 8.12


This course is available on the MSc in Applied Social Data Science, MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research) and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Priority is given to students on the MSc in Social Research Methods and the MSc in Applied Social Data Science programmes.


There are no prerequisites but some prior training in qualitative research methods is expected (including principles of qualitative research, interview-based data collection techniques and observation-based data collection techniques). Please contact the course convenor if unsure.

Course content

The aim of this course is to introduce students to a range of contemporary fieldwork approaches for research concerned with the spatial, material, mobile and sensorial qualities of social settings. The course takes the different realms of social life (private, parochial and public) as a starting point, before focussing on the particular methodological challenges, features and principles of parochial and public realm research in which place is the focus (rather than the locus) of social enquiry. At its core, the course covers core data collection and analysis techniques for research oriented towards attending to the spatio-material qualities of social settings. The course will be organised thematically, and will cover topics including: observational field methods, participatory research, walking and other mobile methods, sensory methods, using visual and digital data, and observational data analysis. The course will also cover ethical issues, paying particular attention to ethics for field research conducted in public realm settings, and will introduce students to an intersectional lens (to account for the ways that cities and spaces are racialised, gendered and classed).

Practically, by the end of the course students will be able to conceptualise their socio-spatial object of analysis, to articulate research questions appropriate to their interests and the data/methods available to them, to design a qualitative field research study suited to their object of analysis, and to identify field research methods appropriate to their design. Examples from a range of disciplines - including urban studies, sociology, socio-cultural geography, social policy and international development - will be used throughout the teaching on the course, and the course includes a London-based fieldwork component (should Covid-related restrictions allow) in which students will gain practical experience of some of the field methods covered.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes, lectures, and workshops totalling a minimum of 28 hours across Lent Term. This year, some or all of the teaching may be delivered through a combination of virtual classes and flipped-lectures delivered as short online videos.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 project in the LT.

Students will be asked to submit a research proposal for a study which derives from the field trip undertaken as part of this course and which draws on the methodological approaches covered in the course. Up to 2,000 words.

Indicative reading

  • Bailey, C.A. (2018) A Guide to Qualitative Field Research [3rd edition]. London: SAGE.
  • Büscher, Urry and Witchger [eds.] (2011) Mobile Methods. London: Routledge.
  • Elliott, S. and Culhane, D. [eds.] (2017) A Different Kind of Ethnography: Imaginative Practices and Creative Methodologies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Lofland, J., Snow, D., Anderson, L., and Lofland, L.H. (2006) Analyzing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis [4th edition]. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Low, S. (2017) Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place. London: Routledge.
  • O'Neill, M. and Roberts, B. (2020) Walking Methods: Research on the Move. London: Routledge.
  • Warren, C.A.B. and Karner, T.X. (2015) Discovering Qualitative Methods: Ethnography, Interviews, Documents, and Images. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Bartholomew, M. and Jones, A. (forthcoming) 'Ties through place: a review and synthesis of sociomaterial network analyses,' in Neal, Z. and Rozenblat, C. [eds.] Handbook of Cities and Networks. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Bellotti, E. (2015) Qualitative Networks. London: Routledge.
  • Burgess, R.G. (1984) In the Field: An Introduction to Field Research. London: Routledge.
  • Grannis, R. (2009) From the Ground Up: Translating Geography into Community through Neighbor Networks.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Hall, S.M. (2012) City, street and citizen: the measure of the ordinary. London: Routledge.
  • Hannerz, U. (1980) Exploring the City: Inquiries Toward an Urban Anthropology. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Irving, A. (2017) 'New York Stories: Narrating the Neighbourhood', in Ethnos 82(3): 437-457.
  • Jones, A. (2020) 'Public realm ethnography: (Non-)participation, co-presence and the challenge of situated multiplicity,' in Urban Studies,
  • Kim, A.M. (2015) Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Kitchin, R., Lauriault, T.P. and Wilson, M.W. [es.] (2017) Understanding Spatial Media. London: Sage.
  • LeCompte, M.D. and Schensul, J.J. (2013) Analysis and Interpretation of Ethnographic Data: A Mixed Methods Approach. Plymouth: AltaMira Press.
  • Lofland, L. (1998) The Public Realm: Exploring the City's Quintessential Social Territory. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
  • Massey, D. (2005) for space. London: Sage.
  • Morrill, C., Snow, D.A., and White, C.H. [eds.] (2005) Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Space. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Palmer, V.M. (1928) Field Studies in Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Powell, K. (2010) 'Making Sense of Place: Mapping as a Multisensory Research Method,' in Qualitative Inquiry 16(7): 539-555.
  • Rose, G. (2016) Visual Methodologies [4th ed]. London: Sage.
  • Snee, H., Hine, C., Morey, Y, Roberts, S, Watson, H. (eds) (2015) Digital Methods for Social Science: An interdisciplinary Guide to Research Innovation.  London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Tolich, M. [ed.] (2016) Qualitative Ethics in Practice. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
  • Vannini, P. [ed.] (2009) The Cultures of Alternative Mobilities: Routes Less Travelled. Farnham: Ashgate.


Essay (90%, 4000 words) in the ST.
Group presentation (10%) in the LT.

Group presentation (10%, 10-15 minutes) to be carried out at the end of MT. All students will contribute to the presentation (in small groups) of a pilot piece of research they have conducted drawing on the data they collected in their groups during the field trip undertaken as part of the course.

Essay (90%, 4,000 words) to be submitted at the start of ST. Students will be set a choice of essay questions to answer. These questions give students the opportunity to address some of the epistemological, methodological, ethical, and/or practical issues and principles that characterise the development and use of the research methods covered in the course.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2021/22: 7

Average class size 2021/22: 6

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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