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Theme: Qualitative Methods

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With such a large variety of qualitative research methods to choose from, creating a research design can be confusing and difficult without a sufficiently informed overview. This module aims to provide an overview by introducing qualitative data collection and analysis methods commonly used in social science research. The module provides a foundation for other SSRMP qualitative methods modules such as ethnography, discourse analysis, interviews, or diary research. Knowing what is ‘out there’ will help a researcher purposefully select further modules to study on, provide readings to deepen knowledge on specific methods, and will facilitate a more informed research design that contributes to successful empirical research.

NB. This module has video content that needs watching prior to the advertised start date, which can be found on the Moodle page.

Atlas.ti Thu 3 Feb 2022   09:00 Finished

This course provides an introduction to the management and analysis of qualitative data using Atlas.ti. It is divided between pre-recorded lectures, in which you’ll learn the relevant strategies and techniques, and hands-on live practical sessions in Zoom, in which you will learn how to analyse qualitative data using the software.

The sessions will introduce participants to the following:

  • consideration of the advantages and limitations of using qualitative analysis software
  • setting-up a research project in Atlas.ti
  • use of Atlas.ti's menus and tool bars
  • importing and organising data
  • starting data analysis using Atlas.ti’s coding tools
  • exploring data using query and visualization tools

Please note: Atlas.ti for Mac will not be covered.

Conversation and Discourse Analysis Tue 15 Feb 2022   16:00 CANCELLED

NB. NOTES FOR INTERESTED STUDENTS

The course content for this year is under construction and will change. While the focus of the course will remain the same, the balance of the content between two types of analysis will change and hands-on tasks added to the curriculum.

The module will introduce students to the study of language use as a distinctive type of social practice. Attention will be focused primarily on the methodological and analytic principles of conversation analysis. (CA). However, it will explore the debates between CA and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), as a means of addressing the relationship between the study of language use and the study of other aspects of social life. It will also consider the roots of conversation analysis in the research initiatives of ethnomethodology, and the analysis of ordinary and institutional talk. It will finally consider the interface between CA and CDA.

Topics:

  • Session 1: The Roots of Conversation Analysis
  • Session 2: Ordinary Talk
  • Session 3: Institutional Talk
  • Session 4: Conversation Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis
Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Wed 27 Oct 2021   10:00 Finished

The course offers an introduction to critical approaches to discourse analysis with a focus on linking theory with method. Students will be equipped with the conceptual and practical knowledge to analyse a broad range of issues based on text documents. The topic of the course will be approached from a broadly Foucauldian angle, considering discourse as social practices that create reality rather than merely reflect it. The emphasis of the three lectures will thus be less upon what is known as ‘conversation analysis’ or ‘content analysis’ and more on text and speech as gateways to understand the making of social phenomena and corresponding power relations.

In the first session, we will discuss the theoretical ideas and origins behind discourse analysis. In the second lecture, we will dive into methodological discussions around doing discourse analysis. In the third session, we will apply the method of discourse analysis with support of a qualitative text analysis software.

Session 1: The origins of critical discourse analysis (especially Foucault but also the Frankfurt School, Feminism, etc.); discussion of how theoretical backgrounds shape research designs

Session 2: The methodology of discourse analysis: introduction to different approaches

Session 3: Doing discourse analysis with the assistance of a qualitative text analysis software

Diary Methodology Mon 7 Feb 2022   09:00 Finished

This SSRMP module introduces solicited diaries as a qualitative data collection method. Diary methodology is a flexible and versatile tool which has been used across a variety of disciplines (e.g. public health, nursing, psychology, media studies, education, sociology).

Solicited diaries are particularly powerful in combination with qualitative interviews, enabling the remote collection of rich data on intimate or unobservable topic areas over a longer period of time. This multi-method approach, also known as the ‘diary-interview method’ (DIM), has been originally developed as an alternative to participant observation (see: Zimmerman, D. H., & Wieder, D. L. (1977). The Diary: Diary-Interview Method. Urban Life, 5(4), 479–498.), which makes it an especially attractive qualitative data collection method in Covid-19 times.

In addition to the engagement with pre-recorded videos on Moodle (covering diary methodology basics), you will get hands-on experience with designing your own qualitative diary (3 hours live workshop via Zoom) and trying out the role of a researcher as well as research participant over a 5-day period (teaming up with a module colleague and filling out each other’s diaries). We will reflect on these experiences and answer remaining questions in a final 1-hour live session via Zoom.

The module is suitable for anybody interested in learning more about the method and/or using solicited qualitative diaries in their own research projects.

Doing Qualitative Interviews Tue 9 Nov 2021   10:30 Finished

Face-to-face interviews are used to collect a wide range of information in the social sciences. They are appropriate for the gathering of information on individual and institutional patterns of behaviour; complex histories or processes; identities and cultural meanings; routines that are not written down; and life-history events. Face-to-face interviews thus comprise an appropriate method to generate information on individual behaviour, the reasons for certain patterns of acting and talking, and the type of connection people have with each other.

The first session provides an overview of interviewing as a social research method, then focuses on the processes of organising and conducting qualitative interviews. The second session explores the ethics and practical constraints of interviews as a research method, particularly relevant when attempting to engage with marginalised or stigmatised communities. The third session focuses on organisation and analysis after interviews, including interpretation through coding and close reading. This session involves practical examples from qualitative analysis software. The final session provides an opportunity for a hands-on session, to which students should bring their interview material (at whatever stage of the process: whether writing interview questions, coding or analysing data) in order to receive advice and support in taking the interview material/data to the next stage of the research process.

Topics:

1. Conducting qualitative interviews

2. Ethics and practical constraints

3. Practical session: interpretation and analysis

Ethnographic Methods Thu 3 Feb 2022   15:30 Finished

This module is an introduction to ethnographic fieldwork and analysis and is intended for students in fields other than anthropology. It provides an introduction to contemporary debates in ethnography, and an outline of how selected methods may be used in ethnographic study.

The ethnographic method was originally developed in the field of social anthropology, but has grown in popularity across several disciplines, including sociology, geography, criminology, education and organization studies.

Ethnographic research is a largely qualitative method, based upon participant observation among small samples of people for extended periods. A community of research participants might be defined on the basis of ethnicity, geography, language, social class, or on the basis of membership of a group or organization. An ethnographer aims to engage closely with the culture and experiences of their research participants, to produce a holistic analysis of their fieldsite.

Session 1: The Ethnographic Method What is ethnography? Can ethnographic research and writing be objective? How does one conduct ethnographic research responsibly and ethically?

Session 2: Visual Anthropology This session outlines the relation of ethnographic film to anthropology and ethnographic knowledge generally, looks at some examples of contemporary ethnographic film practice, and inquires into the possible utility of photography and video recording in the research process of ethnographic fieldwork in general. We continue the prior session’s consideration of some of the epistemological, theoretical, social, and ethical considerations that tend to arise around use of these audiovisual recording technologies in anthropological fieldwork and analysis.

Session 3: Ethnography and/as Audio Shortly after the phonograph was invented, ethnographers began using audio recording to document the cultural practices they were researching. For some, it has served as a kind of scientific tool to gather evidence and generate archives of linguistic, musical, and other sonic practices; for many others, it has served as an essential tool for interviewing about any topic; and for other still, audio recording and re-composition offer new possibilities of what ‘writing culture’ means. What are the consequences of using audio recording in fieldwork? And what are the technical, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions of doing so?

Session 4: Relationships in the Field Ethnographic methodology and participant observation often involve researchers’ positioning in existing networks of social relations. This session is meant to help attendees manage interpersonal relationships with research participants from academic, political, and ethical perspectives. We will discuss when and why relationships in ethnographic fieldwork can be a reason for concern. We will reflect on the social distinctions that emerge when doing fieldwork with other people and their effects on researchers’ decision-making process. Finally, we will think through different fieldwork strategies when working with others, and how they impact the production of ethnographic knowledge.

Feminist Research Practice Wed 9 Feb 2022   14:00 Finished

This series of workshops are aimed at students interested in interdisciplinary and feminist research practice. The course revolves around a simple query: what makes research feminist? It is the starting point to engage with classic and more contemporary writings on feminist knowledge production to answer some of the following questions: what are the ‘proper’ objects of feminist research? Who can do feminist research? Why do we do feminist research, and what is its relevance? Who do we cite in our research? We will have in-class discussions and hands-on assignments that will allow students to practice some of the main debates we will read about.

This course will introduce students to the general philosophical debates concerning scientific methodology, assessing their ramifications for the conduct of qualitative social research. It will enable students to critically evaluate major programmes in the philosophy of sciences, considering whether there are important analytic differences between the social and natural sciences; and whether qualitative methods themselves comprise a unified approach to the study of social reality.

Qualitative Interviews with Vulnerable Groups Tue 8 Feb 2022   14:00 Finished

Qualitative interviews are often used in the social sciences to learn more about the world and are often considered to be particularly appropriate for people we might class as vulnerable. The goal of this course is to encourage students to think critically about whether this is actually the case, and to offer a practical guide to conducting qualitative research with vulnerable participants in a way which neither produces nor takes advantage of their vulnerability. It will be highly discursive, and will draw throughout on ‘real life’ examples from the lecturer’s work interviewing people in prison, as well as with other research with people deemed vulnerable. The course will be of interest to students who are conducting, or planning to conduct, research with a group considered vulnerable, and will also be of interest to students who want to critically engage with such research in their field. In the first session, we will consider the politics of vulnerability. What is it? What creates it? What does it mean to deem someone ‘vulnerable’? What are the benefits and dangers of conducting research with ‘vulnerable’ people, and how can different forms of research exploit, create and alleviate vulnerability? In the second session we will think through the challenges of actually undertaking interviews in the field. We will discuss both how to plan for interviews and how to deal with the unexpected, and we will also discuss the various ways in which both the researcher and the interview participant can become vulnerable during the interview. In the third session we will explore questions of representation. How can we – ethically and rigorously – analyse and write up research conducted with vulnerable groups? Who are our most important audiences, and does this shape how we portray the people we are writing about?

Content warning: Throughout, the course will cover the experience and effects of different forms of trauma. In particular, it will draw on examples from the lecturer’s own work conducting interviews with imprisoned men convicted of sex offences. More specific details about content warnings will be added to the moodle by the beginning of Lent 2022 and will also be discussed at the beginning and end of each session. If any potential attendees of this seminar have any concerns or questions, please do contact the lecturer on amani2@cam.ac.uk.

Qualitative Research Rigour Tue 8 Feb 2022   12:30 Finished

Historically, qualitative research has been criticised for being less rigorous than quantitative research through not fulfilling quality standards such as objectivity, validity, and reliability. This leads to questions whether qualitative research can fulfil these specific markers of rigour, how it can come as close as possible to fulfilling them, and whether qualitative research should at all attempt to live up to these understandings of research quality. Responding to this debate, many methodologists have argued for the need of translating objectivity, validity, and reliability within qualitative research designs.

The discussion of rigour is a loaded one, among methodologists of all three research approaches (qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods) as well as mong qualitative researchers themselves. This course introduces different quality strategies for qualitative research to help students make informed decisions for improving their own empirical work and to better judge the rigour of empirical qualitative research done by others.

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