Information regarding our 2023/24 admissions cycle

Our 2023/24 postgraduate taught admissions cycle will open on Monday, 10 October. For most programmes, the application form will not open until this date.

MA Political Science - Political Theory Pathway (Research Route)

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Foundational and advanced perspectives on qualitative research

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOCY60231
Credit rating 10
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course is an introductory module for postgraduate students that take the QRM courses. It is intended to be compulsory for students with no background in qualitative research. The first two sessions are the same as for SOCY60230, while the remaining five sessions are specific to this course.


The course aims to introduce students to qualitative research by looking at the ontological and epistemological foundations from an historical perspective, and at the range of instruments available both for collecting and analysing data.

The first lecture (SOCY60230) introduces the course and overviews the structure of the QRM programme. The lecture proper will discuss some key characteristics of qualitative research, and we will go over some basic methodological terminology that will be in use throughout the module.

The second lecture (SOCY60230) discusses the key elements of doing qualitative research projects: thinking carefully about research questions, working through the advantages/disadvantages of different sampling strategies and attending to ethics from the outset.

The following five lectures (SOCY60231) overview the various theoretical perspectives that have adopted qualitative methods in social science’s research, the methods for collecting and analysing qualitative data, and introduce some advanced perspectives on mixed methods. These lectures are intended as introductory sessions to orientate the students in the selection of the 5-credit QRM units in the qualitative methods they're particularly interested in. In the concluding session, the module discusses the possibility for generalizing qualitative results.

Learning outcomes

On completion of these units successful students will be able to:

•         Be familiar with the foundational ontological and epistemological elements of qualitative research.

•         Critically engage with the debate over the incompatibilities between qualitative and quantitative methods by placing the paradigm war into its historical perspective.

•         Recognize and understand the various methods for data collection and analysis that are available in qualitative research.

•         Familiarize with the recent advancement in the debate that pushes toward mixed methods approaches.

•         Understand the possibilities for generalizing qualitative results and present them in a coherent and robust way.

Teaching and learning methods

Each week comprises a 1-hour lecture for the whole class and a 1-hour workshop in smaller groups. Your tasks for each week are specified in detail in the weekly folders on Blackboard. So, for each topic you should, at least:

  • Read the essential reading(s), plus one other recommended reading as listed on Reading Lists Online.
  • Carry out additional preparation for scheduled workshops s as specified on the Blackboard website.
  • Attend the lecture and participate in the workshop.

Assessment methods

One assessed essay with a maximum limit of 2,000 words makes up 100% of the overall course mark. The word limit allows for +/- 10%, i.e. in the range 1,800-2,200 words.


Note: You must include an accurate word count on the front page of your essay. Failure to do so will lead to an automatic 2 mark deduction. Your word count should include all text in the essay (including any footnotes, tables and so on) but does not include the bibliography.

Deadline Thursday 15th December 2022


Choose two research articles (from a list of articles available on Blackboard). Critically discuss and compare, across the two articles:

  1. The paradigmatic foundation of the article, reflecting upon the ontological and epistemological implications.
  2. The strategy for data collection and analysis, and the sample strategies that the researchers have adopted.
  3. The type of analysis they have conducted.
  4. The claims and inferences that they make in the article, including claims for generalisation (if any).

More details on the assessment are available on Blackboard.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 90

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
James Hodgson Unit coordinator
Hilary Pilkington Unit coordinator

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