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BAEcon Development Studies and Social Statistics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Qualitative Research Design & Methods

Unit code SOCY20091
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


1. Course introduction and housekeeping. What is 'qualitative' social research? The meaning and rationale of qualitative social research. Principles of qualitative social research design.
2. Approaches to qualitative social research/qualitative social research strategies. Induction, deduction and grounded theory. Philosophy of qualitative social research: understanding ontology and epistemology in practice. Selecting topics and generating questions for qualitative social research projects. The role of theory in social research design.
3. Selecting research participants: sampling strategies in qualitative social research; reliability, validity, richness and quality of data; qualitative data and the limits of generalisation
4. Locating and defining a qualitative social research project: purpose of a literature review and how to carry out one out effectively; selecting and managing reading; reading purposively. Coherence and consistency in qualitative social research design. 
5. Observing social life: ethnography and participant observation; visual methods in observation; ethnographic field-notes and complexity; analysing 'naturally occurring' interactional data.  
6. Working with talk: carrying out qualitative interviews; power and ethics in interviews; focus groups; analysing interview data; thematic and narrative analysis.
7. Unobtrusive methods: documents and images in social research: historical methods; emerging e-methods and ethical dilemmas in e-research; qualitative content analysis; analysing documentary and visual data. When less is more: the pros and cons of multiple methods.  
8. Analysing and interpreting qualitative data. Coding and analysis of social data. Truth and representation in social research. The crisis of representation; hermeneutics, postmodernism, post-positivism, post-constructivism.  
9. Whose side are we on? The ethics and politics of social research; power, inequality and the research process; intervention or representation; macro and micro power relations in social research; power/knowledge, objectivity and the hierarchy of credibility. Reflexivity in social research; reflexivity and identity; forms of reflexivity.  
10. Writing in qualitative social research; the process of writing; from writing down to writing up; writing and representation. Creativity in writing. Revision.


-To consider the meaning and rationale of qualitative social research.
- To explore the principles of qualitative social research strategy and design, and how these principles may be applied in practice.
- To clarify how research questions, research strategies, research methods and forms of analysis influence each other in the context of qualitative social research projects.
- To outline a range of key qualitative social research methods and examine their possibilities, strengths and weaknesses in relation to specific research questions and strategies, both in theoretical terms and through the examination of various practical case studies.
- To familiarise students with historical and contemporary examples of different qualitative social research methods in action.
- To consider some key methods for the analysis of different kinds of qualitative data.
- To equip students with the requisite knowledge, skills and understanding to enable them to effectively design and carry out an independent small-scale qualitative social research project (especially in the context of a third year dissertation).

Learning outcomes

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

- Understand and explain the logic of qualitative social research.
- Outline and effectively apply the principles of qualitative social research strategy and design.
- Critically evaluate the suitability of a range of qualitative research methods for use with different kinds of research question.
- Cite some key historical and contemporary examples of different qualitative social research methods in action.
- Select and deploy appropriate forms of analysis of different kinds of qualitative data.
- Effectively design and carry out an independent small-scale qualitative social research project.

Assessment methods

The course is assessed by means of two pieces of assessed written work, a 1,500 word critical review (40%) and a 2,500 word research design assignment (60%).

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work.

Recommended reading

Atkinson, P., Coffey, A. and Delamont, S. (2003) Key Themes in Qualitative Research, Oxford: AltaMira Press.

Babbie, E (2012) The Practice of Social Research, Wadsworth Publishing.

Berg, B. (2008) Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences, Pearson.

Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods, Oxford University Press.

Corbin, J. and Strauss, A. (2008) Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, London: Sage.

Ezzy, D (2002) Qualitative Analysis: Practice and Innovation, London: Routledge.

Gilbert, N (2008) Researching Social Life, London: Sage.

Mason, J. (2002) Qualitative Researching, London: Sage.

May, T. (2002) Qualitative Research in Action, London: Sage.

Silverman, D. (2010) Qualitative Research, London: Sage.

Silverman, D (2006) Interpreting Qualitative Data: Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction, London: Sage.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Madeline Abbas Unit coordinator

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