Postgraduate taught 

Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies PgDip/MRes

Qualitative Research Methods SPS5037

  • 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 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.


Two hour lecture and one hour tutorial (called Dissertation Training) per week. Lectures Thursday 10am-12pm. (pre recorded) Dissertation Training runs weeks 6-16 inclusive, on various days and times across the week i.e. Tuesday between 1-3pm, Wednesday 11am-12noon, Thursday 1-2pm and Friday between 4-6pm.

Excluded Courses





Formative Assessment - Mock Research Design (500-1000 words, Week 5)

Students will undertake a formative assessment which will support and feed into the weighted summative assessment. Students will provide an overview of a chosen research topic, as well as philosophical and methodological approach. This brief outline of a research design will get students thinking, early on in the course, about the summative assessment and will offer critical feedback to ensure students have understood essential elements of qualitative research. To ensure student engagement with and submission off the formative assessment, students will have to reflect on the feedback provided here in the summative assessment.


Summative Assessment - Mock Research Design (100%, 4000 words, Week 11)

Students will be asked to develop a research design based on a chosen research topic, including an outline of a research approach, one suitable method of qualitative inquiry and to justify its use and suitability for the research topic chosen. Students will also be asked to discuss potential ethical considerations in this research process, reflexivity, practicalities and potential ways of analysing the date produced should also be included. There will be a self-reflection component where students will be asked to reflect on the feedback from the formative assessment and any changes they have made as result of this - thus, they have to participate with the formative assessment in order to complete the self-reflection in a meaningful way.

This assessment will give students the opportunity to develop awareness of practical experiencing formulating a research design on a research topic of their choice. Students are expected to engage with key aspects of qualitative research, such as methodology, methods, and ethical and practical considerations.

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.

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

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

■ Explore 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.