Qualitative Research Methods SPS5042

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

Qualitative research methods aim 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 equip students with the tools and independence for conducting qualitative research autonomously and possibly for the first time. The course introduces students to the main ontological and epistemological approaches that underpin qualitative research, the methodologies and methods used to produce knowledge, data and gather evidence and the main ways to analyse and present data. The course will cover why qualitative research is important, aspects of qualitative research design, how to ask qualitative research questions, research ethics and how to evaluate qualitative research.


During lectures students learn about the key concerns, debates and content for each topic, while tutorials will provide an overview and involve critical discussions of readings that show how qualitative research has been employed and practical exercises to develop methodological skills. Central to the course is an ongoing critical engagement with qualitative research ethics in and through tutorials, lectures and assessments.


The course runs from week 12-16.

This will be a condensed design and the course will follow the research design course that will take place week 3-6.


The course will consist of:

2 2-hours lecture per week plus 2-hour tutorial slots each week for each group during week 12-16.


Lectures take place Mondays 12-14PM and Thursday 10AM-12PM. Tutorials weeks 12-16 inclusive, on various days and times across the week.

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





PGR Independent qualitative project (100% 3000 words, Week 11 or later)

This assessment will encourage students to develop their qualitative research skills and develop transferable skills that will directly support them in understanding the complete qualitative research process, including framing a research question, collection of qualitative data, the analysis of data, and the writing up, theorisation and interpretation of data.

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. Tutorials will provide preparation and support for the assessment.

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 lectures will discuss the main theories, concepts and provide examples on how qualitative research has been employed.


The tutorials are designed to provide students with examples of how qualitative research produces findings by critically examining research articles in group settings. Tutorials will also be a space for students to try out, discuss and critically examine how qualitative methods work in practice.


The aims of the course are to provide students with

a) robust introductory knowledge of a range of qualitative methods; 

b) the skills and ability to read and evaluate qualitative research and the knowledge produced with qualitative research methodologies, thus become proficient qualitative research readers

c) the skills to develop a qualitative research design on their own and produce knowledge build on qualitative research data including a consideration for ethical issues that arise

d) the knowledge and ability to ask qualitative research questions

d) the skills to evaluate and chose appropriate qualitative methods that can answer their qualitative research question and

e) the tools and experience to start to implement qualitative methods such as interviewing, focus groups, and analysis with skill and confidence.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Identify the main ontologies and epistemologies in qualitative research and their role in the qualitative research process and methodology

■ Incorporate and employ a critical understanding of research ethics, reflexivity and researcher positionality in qualitative research practice

■ Critically apply an understanding of how to build a qualitative research design, including ow to phrase qualitative research questions and conduct their own qualitative research project 

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

■ Critically compare and assess strengths and weaknesses of common qualitative data collection methods

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.