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Qualitative Health Research - HEA00033M

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  • Department: Health Sciences
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sarah Blower
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module explores the role of qualitative research methodologies in health services research, and considers the different types of research questions that can be addressed using the range of qualitative methods available. The module offers a framework in which to assess quality in research design and conduct, and how this is applied to qualitative research. There is an emphasis on using reflexive understanding as a means of generating theoretically informed and practically grounded qualitative research. This mix of theoretical and practical debate is a particular feature of the course and all aspects of research design are discussed.

The more formal aims of the course are to:

  • Familiarise students with current theoretical debates about the philosophical origins of qualitative research
  • Enable students to understand the value and purpose of different qualitative approaches and assess their appropriateness for answering different types of research questions
  • Provide students with the knowledge and skills to design, conduct and appraise qualitative research
  • Introduce students to a broad range of qualitative methods, including different and emerging approaches in the use of qualitative methodologies
  • Teach students the importance of adopting ethical, robust, transparent and rigorous methodological strategies in a way that encourages reflexive reconciliation

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the epistemological and ontological assumptions informing qualitative methodologies
  2. Define the types of research questions that can be appropriately addressed using qualitative methodology
  3. Understand how to design a qualitative study and the factors that need to be considered for this
  4. Explore the range of qualitative techniques for collecting data and know the circumstances under which they are likely to be successful
  5. Understand the process of qualitative analysis
  6. Critically evaluate the conduct and quality of qualitative research
  7. Discuss the multi-faceted nature of reflexivity and apply such understanding to research practices
  8. Understand the role of qualitative research methods in systematic reviews, trials and mixed methods research

Module content

The emphasis of the module will be on designing and doing qualitative research, albeit in a way that situates research within the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of different research methodologies. Such an approach is informed by the basic assumption that methodologies cannot be true or false, only less or more useful. The module is designed to cover all of the necessary aspects required to design, conduct and critically appraise qualitative research, including public involvement and research ethics as well as sampling, data collection and analysis. In doing so, many of the concepts and debates introduced in this module have relevance beyond qualitative research.

Each teaching week will include both lecture format and practical sessions:




1. Introduction to module and qualitative research

2. Theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research

Read and discuss a qualitative study


3. Introduction to study design

4. Ethics and patient and public involvement

Design qualitative research questions



5. Qualitative interviews

6. Focus groups

Interview and focus group practice and reflection


7. Ethnography

8. Mixed methods research and process evaluations

Ethnographic observation practice and reflection


9. Overview of qualitative analysis techniques

10. Using and analysing documents

Data analysis exercise


11. Qualitative research online

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: 5 min presentation on ideas for research proposal


12. Reflexivity in qualitative research

13. Quality in qualitative research

Critical appraisal of qualitative study


14. Qualitative research and systematic reviews

Critical appraisal of qualitative study


15. Designing a qualitative study

16. Writing protocols

Read and discuss qualitative study protocol


Task Length % of module mark
Qualitative research proposal
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Qualitative research proposal
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback for summative assessment is provided on the standard proforma, within the timescale specified in the programme handbook.

Indicative reading

Barbour R. (2014) Introducing qualitative research. 2nd edition. London: Sage.

Braun V. and Clarke V. (2013) Successful qualitative research: a practical guide for beginners. London: Sage.

Creswell J. W. (2012) Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Green J. and Thorogood N. (2009). Qualitative methods for health research. 3rd edition. London: Sage.

Hammersley M. and Atkinson P. (2007) Ethnography: principles in practice. 3rd edition. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ritchie J. and Lewis J. (2013) Qualitative Research Practice. 2nd edition. London: Sage.

Silverman, D. (2010). Doing Qualitative Research. 4th edition. London: Sage.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.