Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Qualitative Research Methods SPS5042

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

Qualitative methods are those social research practices that look to uncover the meanings and significance of the wide variety of evidence that social researchers produce. Qualitative research includes a broad range of approaches and techniques. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the ontological and epistemological approaches that underpin qualitative research, the strategies used to produce data and the diverse ways that data can be analysed and presented. These tools include a range of qualitative approaches such as feminist methodologies, collaborative and emancipatory approaches, phenomenological methods, ethnographic approaches and the use of interviewing, observation and focus groups. The course will support students to practically engage with these tools, through the construction of topic guides, the evaluation of interview/focus group technique, practical transcription, coding and analysis of qualitative data and reflexive approaches to research. The course aims to develop a practical understanding of the philosophical underpinnings, application and analysis of qualitative methodology for those working in the social sciences. Central to the course is an ongoing critical engagement with qualitative research ethics in and through tutorials, lectures and assessments.


One and a half hour lecture and one hour tutorial (called Dissertation Training) per week. Lectures Thursday 10-11:30am. Dissertation Training runs weeks 2-11 inclusive, on various days and times across the week i.e. Tuesday between 1-3pm, Wednesday 11am-12noon, Thursday 1-2pm and Friday 4-5pm.

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





Critical ethical review (Week 5 25% 1000)

Students will undertake a short critical review of qualitative research ethics, in the form of an ethical review where they will consider the ethical issues and procedures involved in a chosen qualitative research scenario, using empirical examples to illustrate their arguments. Formative tutorial activity built in to tutorial/dissertation training with verbal feedback in tutorial.


PGR Independent qualitative project (75% 3000 words, Week 11)

This assessment will encourage students to develop their practical qualitative research skills and develop transferable skills that will directly support them in understanding the collection of qualitative data, the analysis of data and the structuring of a research methods chapter of a dissertation/thesis.

In doing so, students will utilise the theoretical skills learned throughout the course by demonstrating them in the assessment. Students will be required to think critically and reflexively throughout the assessment by critically considering their role in the research process, the process of data collection, management and analysis. Two formative tutorial activities built in to tutorial analysis activities with verbal feedback in tutorial.

Course Aims

The lectures are designed to give students grounding in why social science researchers use particular qualitative methodologies and how they may fit into a broader examination of society. The tutorials are designed to give students time to try out, discuss and critically examine how qualitative methods work in practice. The goals of the course are to give students a) robust introductory knowledge of a range of qualitative methods; b) the ability to build a solid research design; c) the skill to find appropriate qualitative methods that relate to their inquiries and d) the tools and experience to start to implement qualitative methods such as interviewing, focus groups, and analysis with skill and confidence. In addition to methods and research design skills, students acquire skills pertaining to the practicalities of the research process, such as structuring a qualitative dissertation, reviewing and using literature in appropriate ways, and meeting ethical standards and procedures.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Build a critical understanding of ontology and epistemology and their role in qualitative research practice.

■ Examine the theoretical, political and cultural contexts within which research is designed and undertaken.

■ Critically evaluate a range of qualitative data collection methods and the data analysis strategies available.

■ Develop a critical understanding of research ethics, reflexivity and researcher positionality in qualitative research practice.

■ Synthesise knowledge and understanding of qualitative data analysis, the generation of codes and identification of themes within the context of a research question.

■ Critically reflect on criteria for evaluating qualitative research and principles of good practice, including credibility, transferability, dependability, confirmability, reliability, transparency, validity, reflexivity, social responsivity, ethics, and rigour.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.