Institute for Global Health


Research in action: Qualitative approach

Medical and health related research has a long history of utilizing a predominantly quantitative approach and Holeman (1993) says "the almost sole recognition given to quantitative methods has trained students inadequately, established flawed standards of practice and research, and delayed the development of essential medical knowledge." 

This module aims to re-dress this imbalance and introduce students to the potential of a qualitative action orientated approach to health and disability research. This module will enable you to enhance the quality and credibility of qualitative studies. It provides the opportunity to gain skills and experience in valuing and using qualitative methods for investigating community health problems and undertaking actions to address the problems. It examines qualitative research concepts and tools, including interviews, observations and focus groups.

Module Code: CIHDG020

UCL Credits: 15

Module Organisers: Dr Mary Wickenden & Dr Jenny Gamlin

Please direct queries to the course administration team in the first instance igh.adminpg@ucl.ac.uk

Who can study this course?

MSc/PG Dip Global Health and Development students, other UCL MSc/PG Dip students, TropEd students, Taster course students, Short course students

Admission Requirements

MSc and PG Dip students: Open to all UCL MSc/PG Dip Global Health and Development, and to any UCL MSc/PG Dip students.

tropEd students: evidence that you are registered as a tropEd student, successful completion of core course.

Taster students: UK Bachelor’s degree in a relevant/allied subject awarded with a 1st or upper 2nd class Honours or an equivalent qualification.  Two academic or professional reference letters.

Short course students: Professional work experience in a relevant area and/or UK Bachelor’s degree in a relevant/allied subject awarded with a 1st or 2nd class Honours or an equivalent qualification.

In addition to the above, all students must demonstrate a GOOD standard of English Proficiency with 6.5 in each of the subtests.

Course length 3 weeks 
Course dates 8 to 26 January 2018
Days and times

Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 09.30 to 12.30 and 13.30 to 16.30 for the first two weeks, plus group work on other days throughout the course.

Group presentation to be assessed on the last Friday.



Review theory underpinning qualitative research methods

  • Develop communication skills, and skills in conducting interviews and focus group discussions
  • Develop observation skills
  • Thinking about ethics and how to do ethical research
  • Introduce and explore the potential of participatory research tools and community involvement in data collection
  • Develop mini-research protocols
  • Draft a qualitative research protocol and plan the research process
  • Data collection, handling data, transcription and translation
  • Analysing data
  • An overview of grounded theory
  • Interpret the data and drawing conclusions
  • Present group work on a small qualitative project, including formulating questions, design, recruitment,  data collection, analysis and interpretation of findings
  • Relating the process and results to action orientated research
  • Learn about conducting qualitative participatory research with children and other
  • vulnerable groups
  • Writing up and reporting qualitative research
  • Critical appraisal of qualitative research papers

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures/seminars/workshops, self-study, tutorials and group work.

Moodle (may be used for lecture notes and reading lists).


In-class group project and presentation 40% (20 minutes group presentation of research project and poster)

Individual Research protocol 60% (2000 words)

Assessment Date

Group presentation on the last day of the course (Friday 26 January 2018)

Individual Research protocol to be submitted by 9 am Monday 12 February 2018

Selected Reading List

Cresswell J A (2003) Research design, qualitative quantitative and mixed methods

approaches Sage: New Jersey

Chambers R (1994) The origins and practice of participatory rural appraisal World

Development 22 (7), 953-969.

Meyer J (2000) Qualitative research in health care. Using qualitative methods in health related action research BMJ 15 320 178-81

Patton M (1990) Qualitative evaluation and research methods London: Sage

Pope C, Mays N (1995) Reaching the parts other methods cannot reach: an introduction to qualitative methods in health and health services research. BMJ 311 42-45

Rifkin S, Pridmore P (2001) Partners in planning: Information participation and

empowerment. Macmillan, London.