Introduction to Qualitative Methods & Data Analysis - RSS00001M

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  • Department: Research Centre for Social Sciences
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Merran Toerien
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2017-18

Module summary

The aim of this module is twofold: i) to develop students’ understanding of a range of different approaches to collecting and analysing qualitative data; ii) to give students hands-on experience of undertaking some of these approaches in order to develop their own competence in carrying out qualitative research.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2017-18

Module aims

Qualitative data is all around us in the social world - from advertising billboards, to newspaper articles, televised debates and interviews, and blog or online forum posts, to name just a few sources we may encounter routinely. Social researchers may also generate their own qualitative data through various research techniques, such as interviews, focus groups or ethnographic observation. This module provides a solid foundation in understanding and applying a range of qualitative data collection and analysis methods. At the end of the module, students should appreciate the breadth of qualitative approaches available. They should understand why they might select a particular method with reference to their research aims and the theoretical perspective underpinning their study. They should also have developed practical skills in collecting and analyzing qualitative data. This will be gained through in-class exercises and the independent work required in preparation for class discussion and for assessment purposes. Ethical considerations will be woven through the module, as will a critical approach to social research, calling on students to reflect on their own relationship to the research they conduct. The module makes no assumptions about students’ prior knowledge of qualitative methods. Instead, staff will strongly encourage students to draw on whatever related experience they may have from a variety of backgrounds to enrich class discussions and facilitate each other’s learning – whatever the individual’s starting point may be. There are no pre-requisites for this module, but students who are undertaking degrees that include the Research Design module will find it helpful to integrate their learning across the two modules.

Module learning outcomes

  • have a broad and sophisticated understanding of a range of methods for collecting and analysing qualitative data;
  • be able to articulate clearly why they would choose one qualitative method over another and why qualitative methods, in general, would be appropriate as a means to address specific research aims;
  • be able to carry out ethically sound, well-designed qualitative data collection using one or more of the available techniques (indicative examples include: interviews, focus groups, ethnographic observation);
  • be able to analyse original qualitative datasets using one or more of the available techniques (indicative examples include: thematic analysis, discourse analysis, biographical/narrative analysis and forms of visual analysis);
  • have hands-on training in using computer software to assist with qualitative data analysis;
  • be competent to reflect critically on their own research process and findings;
  • be able to evaluate published qualitative research findings and to compare their own analyses with those in the published literature.

Module content

We are proposing two two-hour sessions per week. These will cover a range of qualitative data collection and data analysis methods. We will always ensure that students receive a grounding in the following core elements:

  • Interviews and focus groups
  • Ethnographic observation
  • Training in use of a computer package to assist with qualitative data analysis (e.g. NVivo)
  • Thematic analysis
  • Ethnographic analysis
  • Biographical/Narrative analysis

    Other methods will always be taught as well, but will depend on staff availability and expertise to ensure that students are always taught by staff with personal experience of using the method.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Report of data analysis prac
N/A 60
Essay/coursework
Report of data collection prac
N/A 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation
N/A 15

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

Teaching sessions on this module will combine lecture-format presentations with lots of interactive, practical activities to facilitate students developing their own research skills. In-class exercises will be used as the foundation for all components of the assessment, so that students receive support and verbal feedback on their progress during class in advance of submitting written work.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Report of data analysis prac
N/A 60
Essay/coursework
Report of data collection prac
N/A 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation
N/A 15

Module feedback

Feedback on components of the Assessment Portfolio:

Students will receive written feedback on Task 1 (due for submission in Week 5) by the end of Week 6. This will support their work on Task 2 (due for submission in Week 9). They will receive written feedback on Task 2 by the end of Week 10. They will submit Task 3 in Week 1 of the Spring Term, with written feedback on this final task by the end of Week 4.

Information on the assessment will be provided through the VLE site for the module and this will be further supported verbally during face-to-face teaching sessions. Students will be able to access staff via email, their office hours and by appointment for one-to-one support if needed.

Indicative reading

Wherever there is essential reading associated with a particular topic, this will be highlighted by the lecturer with responsibility for that topic. More generally, we will provide extensive reading lists (via the VLE) to give students an array of relevant texts to explore. Students will be encouraged to do their own literature searching in areas that particularly interest them. Since there are so many introductory and 'how to' guides on qualitative methods, students cannot be expected to read them all from cover to cover. Instead, we will encourage them to use the reading lists as resources to aid their independent study across the module.

Indicative core texts include:

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2013) Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners. Los Angeles: Sage.

Bryman, A. (2015) Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Flick, U. (ed.) (2014) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis. Los Angeles: Sage.

Gilbert, N. (ed.) (2008) Researching Social Life. Los Angeles: Sage.

Robson, C. and McCartan, K. (2016) Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-researchers. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.

Silverman, D. (2010) Doing Qualitative Research. 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.