BASS Politics and Criminology

Year of entry: 2022

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. Introduction: the principles of social research revisited
  2. Crafting good research questions
  3. Sampling and generalisation
  4. Qualitative interviews
  5. Observational methods and ethnography
  6. Documentary and visual methods
  7. Ethics, power and reflexivity
  8. Analysing and interpreting qualitative data
  9. Why do (contentious) research?
  10. Crafting good research designs.


The aim of this course is to help students to develop their understanding of the principles and practical use of qualitative methods in social research. Though not all students enrolled on the course will go on to complete a third year dissertation project, the course is geared towards helping to prepare students for their dissertations by equipping them with the knowledge and understanding required to carry out an effective and coherent piece of qualitative social research.

Learning outcomes

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


  • Understand the principles of qualitative social research design and how these principles may be applied in practice.
  • Have an appreciation of how research questions, research strategies, research methods and forms of analysis all influence each other in the design of social research projects.
  • Be able to critically evaluate the suitability of different qualitative research methods for use with different kinds of research questions.
  • Know how to select and deploy appropriate forms of analysis for different kinds of qualitative data.
  • Have the skills and knowledge required to design and carry out an independent small-scale qualitative social research project.

Teaching and learning methods

Lecture-style material will be delivered weekly through a mix of up to one hour pre-recorded (i.e. asynchronous) content and one hour live (i.e. synchronous) lecturer-led classes. Additionally, weekly one hour small-group tutorials will be delivered on-campus as long as government guidelines allow, otherwise they will be delivered online.

Assessment methods

The course is assessed by means of two pieces of assessed written work, a 1,500 assignment consisting of three short ‘research portfolio’ exercises (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.

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

Devine, F and Heath, S. (1999) Research Methods in Context, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Gilbert, N and Stoneman, P (fourth edition: 2015) Researching Social Life, London: Sage.

Holmes, H and Hall, S (2020) Mundane Methods: Innovative Ways to Research the Everyday, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Mason, J. (Third edition: 2017) Qualitative Researching, London: Sage.

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

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


Silverman, D. (2010) Qualitative Research, 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
Robert Meckin Unit coordinator
Suzanne Heath Unit coordinator

Return to course details