Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SOCI58815: Qualitative Methods in Social Science

Department: Sociology

SOCI58815: Qualitative Methods in Social Science

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To equip students with advanced knowledge and skills to understand, conceptualise, design, conduct and critically appraise qualitative social sciences research, including different approaches to analysing qualitative data.
  • To contribute towards students' preparation for carrying out qualitative research projects.


  • Introduction to qualitative research (explores what qualitative research is, its history and why it is important).
  • An overview of a range of different specific methodological approaches, such as grounded theory, phenomenology, narrative enquiry, ethnography, visual and participatory methods.
  • Choosing a research sample and gaining access (explores how researchers choose people and settings for research).
  • Issues relating to specific methods such as conducting interviews (explores what interviews are and how to make them successful) and
  • running successful focus groups (explores what focus groups are and how to make them successful).
  • Thematic analysis (supported by the practical sessions) (explores how to identify common themes in textual and visual data to make conclusions)
  • Explore the potential for using computer software to manage qualitative data, including the potential benefits and limitations.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will:
  • Understand the underlying rationale for qualitative research in the social sciences.
  • Be aware of practical and ethical issues that arise in the conduct of qualitative research in the social sciences.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • At the end of the module, students will:
  • Be able to critically assess the conduct and outcomes of qualitative research projects.
  • Be able to undertake empirical qualitative research.
  • Be able to analyse a set of qualitative data.
Key Skills:
  • Communication skills (through seminar participation, written skills in assignments).
  • Group work skills (through seminar participation).
  • Time management (through working to deadlines).
  • Data management (through handling empirical data for assignments).
  • Independent study skills (through individual work for assignments).

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • During periods of online teaching, for asynchronous lectures in particular, planned lecture hours may include activities that would normally have taken place within the lecture itself had it been taught face-to-face in a lecture room, and/or those necessary to adapt the teaching and learning materials effectively to online learning.
  • The module will be delivered through weekly lectures and seminars.
  • Lectures will introduce students to the key theoretical bases and rationale for particular qualitative research methods. Lectures will draw on on-going and existing research to highlight the key challenges and opportunities in these methods. Lectures encourage students’ key skills in listening and active note-taking.
  • Seminars will be structured around particular questions and/or tasks which students will be asked to work through in pairs or groups. These tasks will get students thinking about the practical ways in which to execute particular methods in practice. Seminars encourage collaborative working, communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Students are offered individual written feedback on their formative and summative assignments and can seek additional one-to-one feedback in staff office hours if they require this.
  • The final lecture/seminar session will run as an assessment workshop for students to discuss their summative assignments.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 weekly 1 10
Seminars 10 weekly 1 10
Practicals (data analysis) 5 weekly 1 5
Preparation & Reading 125
Total: 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research project (to be chosen from a list of options) 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

A 1,500 word essay to be chosen from a list of options. The options for the formative assignments all ask students to offer a reflection on a particular method, or aspects of a method. A critical analysis of this kind will also be expected in the summative research project. Hence, the formative assignment prepares students for the summative work by having them think critically about methods. Students will be provided with individual written feedback on their essay which will support them in developing their critical analysis for the summative assignment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University