PhD Qualitative Methods

Course Description: 

This 2-credit course will familiarize students with some of the most commonly used qualitative methods of research in Gender Studies through a focus on ethnographic methods. The course aims to equip students with the skills they will need to formulate research questions, carry out the research, collect, analyze, and write up data for their PhD theses. The course combines consideration of theoretical and ethical issues with practical readings and exercises on three main methods: participant observation, interviewing, and textual/discursive analysis. Interwoven throughout the course are considerations of ethics, positionality, and debates about feminist and participatory methods. Ample space for discussion will allow students to explore the implications of different research choices and to learn from the first-hand experience of others. There will also be space to incorporate other specific methods that individual students might be interested in.

Learning Outcomes: 

Through readings, class discussions, and practical assignments, students successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • Recognize what constitutes a clear, compelling, and research-able question or set of questions and be able to formulate their own thesis statements accordingly;
  • Grasp the underlying principles of ethical research and engage in informed debate about how researchers make research and writing decisions and represent the people they research;
  • Discuss the main points of tension between research ethics and feminist politics that underlie much research on gender;
  • Prepare, conduct, and analyze a qualitative interview or focus group;
  • Understand the principles of sampling and site choice in interviewing, participant observation, and archival, media, or other text-based research;
  • Choose a site and conduct participant observation, keep fieldnotes, devise a system for ordering and analyzing fieldnotes and other materials collected, code, analyze, and write up conclusions based on this material;
  • Understand the main approaches to analyzing different kinds of texts;
  • Understand and be able to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of conducting ethnographic research and interviews online;
  • Apply the principles of coding and theme analysis to fieldnotes and interview transcripts to develop a coherent written analysis of research material;
  • Grasp the basics of using atlas.ti software to analyze a large corpus of qualitative data;
  • Design a qualitative research project that promises to adequately address a clear research question (the student’s thesis project).

Grades will be calculated as follows:

                        10%     Class participation and attendance

                        60%     Practical assignments (3 x 20% each)

                        30%     Final essay: methods statement