MY521M      Half Unit
Qualitative Research Methods

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Eleanor Knott


This course is compulsory on the MRes/PhD in Management (Employment Relations and Human Resources) and MRes/PhD in Management (Organisational Behaviour). This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Cities Programme, MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography, MPhil/PhD in Environmental Policy and Development, MPhil/PhD in Health Policy and Health Economics, MPhil/PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies, MPhil/PhD in International Relations, MPhil/PhD in Regional and Urban Planning Studies, MPhil/PhD in Social Policy, MPhil/PhD in Social Research Methods, MPhil/PhD in Sociology and MRes/PhD in Accounting (AOI) (Accounting, Organisations and Institutions Track). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is available to all research students.

This course is not controlled access. If you register for a place and meet the prerequisites, if any, you are likely to be given a place.

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 and discourse analysis. Issues of research design, quality indicators 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 MY523 Interview Methods for Social Science Research, MY525 Case Studies and Comparative Methods for Qualitative Research, MY526 Doing Ethnography, or MY528 Qualitative Text Analysis. Lectures introduce the main conceptual and practical issues. Seminars provide practical experience with the methods.


The course runs twice per year: in MT (MY521M) and again in LT (MY521L). The content of the course, and the method of assessment, is exactly the same in each term.

This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours in Michaelmas Term. 

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

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 enquiry, 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.


Project (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

One final written project of 4000-5000 words, based on seminar exercises (100%). It takes the form of a research project report, with detailed appendices documenting the methods of data collection and analysis used. 

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2021/22: 11

Average class size 2021/22: 7

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