Provides a background for understanding qualitative inquiry. Focuses on ethnographic inquiry and interpretative cultural analysis. Discusses forms of data collection such as observation, participant observation, and interviewing. Also stresses strategies for data analysis and for handling qualitative data.
Qualitative research is an umbrella term that refers to many naturalistic inquiry strategies in the social sciences. Students will be introduced to the terminology, characteristics, and theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research, including current tensions in the field. Specifically, the course will cover the nature of qualitative research questions and purposes; various research strategies, such as case study and ethnography; data collection and analysis; verification and evaluation; interpretative frameworks including how theory and literature are integrated into qualitative writings; and ethical issues such as anonymity and informant rights. The course will help students evaluate qualitative research studies and give them some experience in descriptive and interpretative writing.
Student learning goals
Understand the differences between qualitative and quantitative methods, the strengths and weakness of qualitative research, and the conditions under which qualitative methods should be used;
Identify the key steps in conducting a qualitative research study;
Identify and understand the rationale for qualitative data collection procedures, such as taking field notes and interviewing;
Identify qualitative data analysis methods and use at least one method such as coding and categorization or thematic analysis;
Understand the place of theory and literature in qualitative research;
Identify ethical issues involved in qualitative research
General method of instruction
The course will be a mixture of lecture, discussion, and classroom exercises that develop observation and interview skills.
Students should have experience in analytic writing and reading and some familiarity with research methods in the social sciences.
Class assignments and grading
The course has two strands, one reflective and the other experiential. The reflective part of the class will involve writing about the readings on two essay exams and for participation assignments. Students will participate in the experiential strand by doing fieldwork and an interview; these activities will require about 4 hours of out-of-class work.
Students will be graded on their performance on 2 examinations and class assignments and on their analyses of their fieldnotes and interview.