Further Qualitative Research Methods
The individual coursework is not only meant to assess your learning in this module. In addition to being an assessment, it is designed to help extend and consolidate your learning as well as prepare you for the writing of your Master’s dissertation. As such, it will take you through a miniature version of the process of conducting and writing up an original, qualitative study. The 3,000 word (+/- 10%) essay you submit should be written as a report of the study you conducted and follow the basic structure of a qualitative research article.
Topic: You are free to conduct a study on any topic and research question of your choosing. However, it is strongly recommend that you use this essay to prepare for your Master’s dissertation, to help get you started and save you time. For example, you could use this minor study as a pilot (pretest) study for your Master’s dissertation, to help you develop and fine-tune your sampling, data collection and analyses strategies. If you are not yet ready to focus on a specific topic for your dissertation, you could try to focus on one of the topics you are considering, to help you decide if it is worth pursuing or not.
Since this a module on advanced qualitative research methods, focus mainly on presenting your methodology and results. Therefore, you should not include a lengthy literature review on your topic and research question. Instead you should mainly focus on the following:
– Explaining your data collection methods and justifying why these are appropriate to your research question.
– Explaining your sampling strategy and showing how it was guided by your research question as well as practical concerns (and your recruitment/access strategy if relevant).
– Explaining your analysis strategy, choices you made along the way, why these are appropriate to your research question and the data you collected.
– Explaining any changes you made to your research question or sample, data collection or analysis strategies after starting the study and justifying them.
– Presenting the results of your analysis including your interpretation.
– Showing your interpretative claims are supported by (grounded in) your data.
Nevertheless, it is always necessary to properly contextualize a study. Thus, you should also address the following:
– What is your research question?
– Why is it important to you and/or why should it be important to others? (Does it address a theoretical gap, respond to a practical concern or investigate an interesting phenomenon?)
– What does some existing literature say about this research question and how does your study fit with this literature? (for example, does it confirm, extend or contradict current knowledge?) To do this you will have to cite some existing theory and/or a few studies, but do not conduct a lengthy literature review.
– Why you have taken the approach you have taken, your views on qualitative research and your view of your role as the researcher and how you affect the research process.
– Strengths and limitations of your study and possible next steps.
You can use any method you wish but you must use more than one method, and use each method to collect data several times. The minimum for each method is as follows:
3.2 focus groups
4.5 documents/texts for archival analysis
More important than satisfying a numerical minimum, however, is showing that you obtained sufficiently rich data to allow for interesting and credible analysis and interpretations, showing that you know how to use the methods appropriately and showing that you were deliberate and thoughtful about your choice of method, sampling, etc.
You must obtain consent from any participants (except when you observe in a public space or use publicly available data). You should use pseudonyms to maintain the anonymity of all sources.
As mentioned, I do request that you connect your study to some existing research or theory, particularly in the introduction and in the discussion sections. You might be able to use some of the readings in our module (e.g. exemplary articles) or in one of your other modules.
Your essay should be typed, double spaced, fully referenced1, and in 12-point font. The 3,000 word limit excludes the bibliography and any tables or figures.
Monday, December 14, 2015, 4:00 PM
(1) Submit one electronic copy on moodle, and (2) hand in one hard (printed) copy to the Faculty Office of Social Science (FOSS) along with your portfolio (see below) before the deadline.
1 Any academic citation style used in social science journals is acceptable as long as it is used consistently throughout the document.
(Submit this to the Faculty Office of Social Science (FOSS) with the hard copy of your essay before the deadline mentioned above.)
Your portfolio gathers in one place evidence of what you have learned and accomplished during this module and demonstrates what you are now capable of as a qualitative researcher.
From the exercises you conducted outside of class, your portfolio should include:
1. Research question, purpose and/or propositions for your observation
2. Field notes from your observation (during and/or after)
3. Memo for your observation (optional)
4. Research question, purpose and/or propositions for your interviews (if different from research question/purpose for observation)
5. Notes from your interviews
6. Transcript of your interview
7. Memo for your interview (optional)
8. Signed consent form for your interview
9. Coded interview transcript
From the qualitative study you conducted for your individual coursework, your portfolio should include copies of the materials (artefacts) of your data collection and analysis, such as, for example, transcripts, archival texts, fieldnotes, consent forms, memos, examples of coding, etc.
Further Qualitative Research Methods