Postgraduate taught 

Criminology PgDip/MRes

Qualitative Methods SPS5042

  • Academic Session: 2020-21
  • 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 research techniques concerned broadly with non-mathematical, naturally occurring and non-experimental research practices that look to uncover the meanings and significance of the wide variety of evidence that social researchers collect. Qualitative research includes a broad range of approaches and techniques. The purpose of the course is to introduce students to a number of the most commonly used of these approaches and techniques. These tools include in-depth interviews and focus groups as well as the gathering of data based on observation and textual information. 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.


One and a half hour lecture and one hour tutorial (called Dissertation Training) per week. Lectures Tuesday 5-6:30pm. Dissertation Training runs weeks 2-11 inclusive, either Tuesday 6:45-7:45pm or Wednesday 2-3pm or 3-4pm.

Excluded Courses





90%: 4,000 word research proposal in response to a (possibly subject-specific) scenario, a development of formative assessment 2 (see 22 below)
10%: participation in formative assessments and peer review.

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 are divided into three blocks: Research Design, Strategy, and Practical Skills; Data Collection Methods; and Analysis. 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:

■ Demonstrate a critical understanding of the different epistemological and ontological positions inherent in different qualitative approaches.

■ Recognise the theoretical, political and cultural context of one's research agenda.

■ Have a robust knowledge of the different qualitative methods of enquiry and the data collection strategies available.

■ Understand the mechanics of sampling and case selection strategies and their implications for the generation of research findings.

■ Understand, critically evaluate, and demonstrate the process of constructing a robust research design that uses qualitative methods.

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

■ Have a first impression of software solutions for supporting qualitative inquiry.

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.