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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.

Comparative Historical Methods Tue 15 Oct 2019   16:00 Finished

These four sessions will introduce students to comparative historical research methods, emphasizing their qualitative dimensions. In the first session, we will analyze some contemporary classics within this genre. In the second and third sessions, we will review and distinguish among a variety of intellectual justifications for this genre as a methodology. In the final session, we will focus on a "state of the art" defence of qualitative and comparative-historical research, both in theory and practice.

Conversation and Discourse Analysis Tue 21 Jan 2020   16:00 [Places]

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 30 Oct 2019   13:30 Finished

The focus of these two sessions will be the linking of theory to method, paying particular attention to the relationship between language or other forms of representation or communication and the broader social milieu with special attention to power relations. The topic will be approached from a broadly Foucauldian angle: Foucault writes that discourse “consists of not—of no longer—treating discourses as groups of signs signifying elements referring to contents of representations, but as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.” The emphasis of these two lectures will be less upon what is known as ‘conversation analysis’ or ‘content analysis’ and more on methods based on post-positivist methods and critical theory which emphasize how language and other social practices create reality rather than reflect it, and thus methods of interpreting discourse are themselves not ideologically or politically neutral practices.

Session 1: The origins of critical discourse analysis (the Frankfurt school, Foucault, post-structuralism, feminism); how theoretical backgrounds shape research design
Session 2: 'Doing' discourse analysis: analysing methods and approaches

Diary Methodology Mon 28 Oct 2019   14:00 In progress

This four-part workshop series provides an introduction to using solicited diaries as a research tool. The main goal of the course is to add diary methodology to students’ research toolboxes. It is a flexible and versatile tool that has been used by researchers in many fields, including public health, nursing, psychology, media studies, education, and sociology. The workshop is suitable for anybody interested in learning more about the method and/or using diaries in their research.

The course covers the use of qualitative and quantitative types of diaries, both as a self-standing tool and as a part of mixed-method research designs. The lectures and workshops aim to provide theoretical and practical foundations, as well as first-hand experience with solicited diaries as a research tool. The course also provides unique insights into diary data analysis and its challenges.

The course is equally driven by lectures and student participation/practicums. The initial workshop (Week 1) provides a solid theoretical introduction to the diary methodology, including the history of the method, qualitative and quantitative variants, modes of delivery, and use of technology. The follow-up workshops sequentially advance this knowledge base through practical exercises and discussions (Weeks 2 & 4), as well as a specialist lecture (Week 3) on data management, participant communication, ethics and data analysis.

Doing Qualitative Interviews Mon 11 Nov 2019   14:00 In progress

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 Tue 4 Feb 2020   15:30 [Places]

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: Photography and Audio Recording in Ethnographic Work
What kinds of audiovisual equipment, and practices of photography and sound recording, can be used to support an ethnographer’s research process? What kinds of the epistemological, theoretical, social, and ethical considerations tend to arise around possible use of these technologies in anthropological fieldwork and analysis?

Session 3: 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.

Session 4: Defining the Fieldsite
This session is meant to equip attendees with the practical skill of how to determine, or work with, the limits of the fieldsite. Drawing on reflections on the challenges of working across sprawling geographical fields, as well as more enclosed geographical sites, we will discuss strategies for either strategically bounding the seemingly infinite fieldsite, or letting the boundaries of an already limited one work for you. We will also discuss how this methodological decision might impact the theoretical insights that emerge from a period of fieldwork, as well as how it impacts the interview process, methods of participant observation, and strategies for developing relationships with gatekeepers and interlocutors

PLEASE NOTE: Update on additional teaching - we have now scheduled the two additional sessions on 18 and 25 February. Further information on their content will follow.

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 new Tue 11 Feb 2020   09:30 [Full]

Qualitative Interviews with Vulnerable Groups

Qualitative interviews are often used in the social sciences to learn more about the world and can be particularly appropriate for people we might class as vulnerable. The course will try to achieve two things. First, it will have a strong practical arc, guiding students through the complete process of designing and delivering interviews and what to do with the data when you have it. It is particularly important, therefore, that students come to the course prepared with a research question in mind (it does not have to be your actual dissertation topic). Second, we will repeatedly think carefully about the challenges of interviewing with populations that are deemed vulnerable (especially prisoners, women in the criminal justice system, and people living with trauma). We will explore how, in all stages of the research cycle, questions of ethics and the importance of understanding ‘whole people’ remain pertinent.

In the first session we will think about how to frame a study and research question, and how to design an interview schedule that allows you to access your question sensibly and creatively! We will also think about the challenges of interviewing those with trauma, in particular, as a case study.

In the second session we will think through the challenges of actually undertaking interviews in the field. Many hints and tip will be shared, and students will be encouraged to undertake a short mock interview.

In the third session we explore various ways in which to approach a mass of interview data and different approaches towards analysis.

In the final session, we burrow down into analysis and talk about how to write up your research.

In both of the final sessions students will be asked to engage with real interview transcripts that have been anonymised.

Reading List

The following list of reading materials provide useful context for the course, but is not mandatory:

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.

Levine, P. A. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. North Atlantic Books.

Noaks, L. and Wincup, E. (2004) Criminological Research: Understanding qualitative methods, London: Sage Publications. (An excellent overview of qualitative research methods, with useful examples.)

Brinkmann, S. and Kvale, S. (2015) InterViews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing, 3rd ed., Los Angeles: Sage.

Maruna, S. (2001) Making Good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Becker, H.S. (1998) Tricks of the Trade: How to think about your research while you're doing it, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Spradley, J. (1996) The Ethnographic Interview, London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Or see the (1979) edition, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Researching Organisations Fri 22 Nov 2019   11:00 [Places]

This course provides an introduction to some of the methodological issues involved in researching organisations. Drawing on examples of studies carried out in a wide range of different types of organisation, the aim will be to explore practical strategies to overcome some of problems that are typically encountered in undertaking such studies.

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