MPH Master of Public Health (Communicable Disease Prevention and Control)

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Qualitative Research Methods

Course unit fact file
Unit code POPH63121
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit is suited to anyone working as a health worker or researcher who is interested in learning about qualitative research methods. Some students take this unit to better understand published research. Others who have previously only studied quantitative research methods take this unit to gain an insight into different ways of thinking about research. For students who are planning a career or research using these methods, this unit is an excellent introduction.

This unit is designed to introduce students to the theory behind qualitative research and a number of qualitative research methods. On completion, students should be able to understand and appreciate qualitative research and undertake basic research.

This is an interactive online course. 10% of the total marks for this course will be awarded to an assessed online group task. Students are therefore expected to engage with one another.


To enable students to develop the skills to use qualitative methodology in public health and primary care research.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, successful students will be able to:

  • Understand the philosophical principles of undertaking qualitative research applied to health settings.
  • Explain and critically discuss the principal qualitative methods that can be deployed to undertake research as a means of exploring a range of important public health and primary care issues.
  • Compare and contrast the ways in which qualitative data may be collected and used in primary care and public health research.
  • Identify, synthesise and conduct secondary analysis of qualitative data on topics relevant to primary care, public health or health services research.


  • Concepts and the philosophical basis of qualitative research applied to health setting
  • The ethics involved in undertaking qualitative research in health care settings
  • How to sample and recruit in qualitative research
  • Qualitative data collection methods with individuals in the arena of public health and primary care (e.g. interviews, focus groups and visual interview methods)
  • Approaching qualitative analysis (e.g. narrative analysis and thematic analysis)
  • Introduction to qualitative research in a digital age (e.g. conducting qualitative research using social media)

Teaching and learning methods

This unit introduces students to the theoretical knowledge that underpins qualitative research and also introduces students to a number of well used qualitative methodologies. As well as online and web-based readings, students will also have the opportunity to undertake a number of practical exercises, which will contribute towards the assessment of this unit. This enables students to practically apply what they have learnt to real-life practice.

All students will receive written feedback for their online, mid term and final assignments.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
At Master's level, we expect students to be able to apply what they know to other contexts, often their own. In this unit, students will have the opportunity of practically applying the material the unit covers through their assessments. Students will develop their skills in qualitative data collection (e.g. interviews) and data analysis (e.g. thematic analysis).
Group/team working
Team working is important for all health professionals and especially Public Health specialists. This unit requires students to work together in small groups to design and plan a qualitative research project.
Reflexivity - Given the subjective nature of qualitative data and methodology, there are so many ways in which researcher bias could influence the study. This can range from the study design, to data collection, data analysis and even data interpretation and reporting. Consequently, this unit allows you to examine, judge and reflect on your own practices and to explore the implications of your role in producing certain kinds of knowledge.

Assessment methods

The practical assessments build on one another and allow students to work through a complete research project from start to finish.The group assessment involves engaging and working with peers.

Assessment task



Midterm assignment

1,500 words


Final assignment

2,500 words


Group assessment

500 words


Feedback methods

Feedback for the group assignment will be provided to support students in their preparations for the individual mid-term assignments.

Students will be provided with personalised feedback for their mid-term and final summative assignments: within 15 working days for mid-term assignments and 20 working days for final submission.

Recommended reading

Green J, Thorogood N, Qualitative Methods for Health Research, (3rd edition), 2014, SAGE Publications Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4462-5309-0.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Annie Harrison Unit coordinator
Christine Greenhalgh Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Students who are planning to do a qualitative research dissertation are expected to have undertaken the qualitative research methods module.

If you have any questions about the content of this unit, please contact the course unit leaders, Christine Greenhalgh or Annie Harrison via email on and If you have any other queries, please contact the PGT programme administrators via email on

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