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BSc Psychology

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Qualitative Research Methods in Applied Contexts

Unit code PSYC31151
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Division of Psychology and Mental Health
Available as a free choice unit? No


Qualitative research methods of data collection and analysis are increasingly used in their own right or as part of mixed methods studies in psychology. This unit is designed to give students advanced training in the background, use and application of a variety of qualitative techniques of data collection and analysis as they are used in applied, ‘real world’ contexts. 


The unit aims:

-To introduce students to, and provide hands-on, practical experience in, a range of qualitative research methods of data collection and analysis, as applied to ‘real world’ contexts.

-To equip students with research training in qualitative methods and transferrable skills that will prepare them for later study and/or research work within or outside an academic setting.

-To provide training in qualitative research methods that will be helpful to students undertaking undergraduate projects with a qualitative element.




Introduction to the module:

Big debates at the quantitative/qualitative research interface. Why and how is qualitative research useful in applied contexts?



Designing qualitative research:

Writing research questions and aims, sampling, ethics, mixed methods.






Focus groups



Observational methods and naturally occurring sources, text-based, documentary sources (e.g. diaries), and data publicly available via the media and internet.


[Research design assignment 1 submitted around now (TBC)]





Thematic analysis (TA).

One of the most commonly used forms of qualitative data analysis, we will discuss the basics of coding and building a corpus of instances for analysis.



Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA)



Discourse Analysis (DA)



Conversation Analysis (CA)


Evaluating and writing up qualitative research:

Validity, reliability, generalisability.


New innovations and debates in qualitative research:

Covers a variety of new techniques, and debates on the ethics and politics of research (including ‘feminist’ methods), reflexivity, realism and relativism, reactivity and ‘natural’ and ‘contrived’ data sources, qualitative analysis software.

[Data collection assignment 2 submitted around now (TBC)]

End Jan  (TBC)


[Data analysis assignment 3 to be submitted around now]


Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered via:

11 x 3 hour workshops consisting of mini-lectures and practical, hands-on experience of issues in research design, data collection and analysis.

E-learning provision: lecture content, supplementary reading and resources, and a monitored discussion board will be provided via Blackboard.

Since the course is designed to teach students some very practical research skills, it will be delivered slightly differently to other final year units as a three hour workshop (not separate lectures/seminars/reading groups). Each three hour methodology workshop will be devoted to three types of activity:

1.         Interactive lectures.

2.         Group-work to formulate research questions and provide ‘hands on’ experience of            analysing case studies of data organized by the Unit lead.

3.         In-class discussion based on questions about set reading, and ongoing help with the          assignments.

The precise mix of these activities will be modified according to class size and preferences. Handouts of lecture/workshop material will be made available on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate an understanding of a range of techniques of data collection and analysis for applied qualitative research in psychology.

Intellectual skills

Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a range of qualitative methods.

Practical skills

Demonstrate appropriate choices regarding, and the sensitive application of, techniques of qualitative data collection and analysis.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Develop qualitative methodological awareness and research skills that can be applied to practical research problems. 

Assessment methods

Research design assignment

Must be submitted to pass the module, formative feedback will be given, but the assignment will not be graded.

Formulate a qualitative research question and design a semi-structured interview schedule

[Submit end week 5 (TBC)]

Data Collection Assignment (1500 words, 40% of unit)

Conduct the (audio-recorded) interview, transcribe it, and write a report in which you reflect critically on your experience and evaluate interviewing as a method, comparing it with other data collection techniques.

[Submit end week 12 (TBC)] 

Data Analysis Assignment (2000 words 60% of unit)

I will supply you with some sets of qualitative data. Your task is to formulate an appropriate research question and pick from amongst the analytic techniques you have been taught to produce an analysis of the data. In your write up you will reflect critically on the analytic technique you have used, comparing it with other qualitative data analysis techniques.

[Submit end of Semester 1(TBC)]

Feedback methods

The three assignments are staggered throughout the unit so that you will receive  formative feedback on your work in order to develop your skills. Feedback on each assignment is designed to feed usefully into the next assignment.

There will be opportunities for discussion in workshops and I welcome students talking to me individually during breaks and following workshops. There will also be opportunities for feedback during the workshops.

Recommended reading

Wherever possible, articles and data are made available on Blackboard. In addition, students may also wish to consult the following:

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks: California: Sage.

Punch, K. F. (2006). Developing effective research proposals. Second edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ritchie, J. and Lewis, J. (Ed.) (2003). Qualitative research practice: A guide for
Social Science students and researchers. London: Sage.

Robson, C. (2011). Real world research. Third edition. Chichester: John Wiley.

Silverman, D. (2010). Doing qualitative research. Third edition. London: Sage.

Smith, J. A. Flowers, P., Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method and research. London: Sage.

Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk: Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis: London: Routledge.

Thomas, G. (2009). How to do your research project: A guide for students in education and applied social sciences. London: Sage.

Hutchby, I. and Wooffitt, R. (2008). Conversation analysis. Second Edition. Cambridge: Polity.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Susan Speer Unit coordinator

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