MY421W      Half Unit
Qualitative Research Methods

This information is for the 2024/25 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Raphael Susewind


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Demography/Population Studies, MSc in Applied Social Data Science, MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Environmental Policy and Regulation, 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 International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Political Economy (Research), MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research), MSc in Marketing, MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics) and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

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 MY423 Interview Methods for Social Science Research, MY425 Case Studies and Comparative Methods for Qualitative Research, MY426 Doing Ethnography, or MY428 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 AT (MY421A) and again in WT (MY421W). 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 Winter Term. 

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

Formative coursework

Students submit a portion of their practical work, with some written commentary, for formative assessment in Week 7.

Indicative reading

Textbooks: There is no set text for this course.

The following are useful general textbooks for the pragmatic approach taken in MY421:

  • Becker, H. S. (199). Tricks of the trade: How to think about your research while you’re doing it. University of Chicago Press.
  • Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2018). Successful qualitative research: a practical guide for beginners, London: SAGE.
  • Lareau, A. (2021). Listening to People: A Practical Guide to Interviewing, Participant Observation, Data Analysis, and Writing it All Up. University of Chicago Press.
  • Mayan, M. J. (2016). Essentials of qualitative inquiry. Routledge.


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. 

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2023/24: 44

Average class size 2023/24: 11

Controlled access 2023/24: No

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