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Arts and Sciences (BASc)

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Qualitative Thinking: Research Methods in Cultural Analysis

Looking for meaning in the world and making value judgements is an inescapable part of being human. It is through language that ideas of value are articulated. But the degree to which words are able to give precise meanings is open to dispute. Attempts to quantify and measure come up against particular problems when dealing with human society, rather than the rest of the natural world.

A category such as 'the economy' is often used without reference to the activities that are most valued by individuals. How and why greater value is attributed in certain societies to one type of activity as opposed to another, necessarily requires analyses of what is meant by 'value' and how that understanding is contingent and variable.

Anyone following the news will be struck by the dramatic shifts from the quantitative to the qualitative. One minute the discussion centres on the statistics for migration or the proportion of the population over 65, the next it is dealing with individual experiences and attitudes within society. Qualitative judgements can seldom be separated from the complexities of applying quantitative methods.

Course details

The overall approach of this module is to put questions of value in historical context so that its contingency and variability are understood in relation to change. It also puts those questions in relation to geographical variations within our time. Wider debates are introduced with the aim of involving students as participants in the discussion of 'how and why we make value judgements'.

Teaching and learning is structured around two lectures and one course-related activity per week.

The lecture itself may take the form of a public conversation in which a practitioner in a field (for example, an expert from Christie's). Questions of value are viewed from different angles while coherence is given by establishing a dialogue between different disciplines. Course-related activities are designed to allow students to experiment with and test ideas. For example, making a 5-10 minute taped interview when studying how and why meaning has been attributed to work. Apart from reading written texts, students are expected to familiarise themselves with and study a range of materials in different media, and to develop a critical awareness of the significance of the medium for ideas about value.

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  • to develop an understanding and appreciation of a range of approaches to value.
  • to engage with the notion of value in everyday speech and situations as well as within specialised languages.
  • to examine how conceptions of value are formulated within and between different disciplines.
  • to raise questions about the relationship of quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

This course is taught in Term 2 of Year 2.

    In previous years the course outline has included the following lectures:

    Week 1: Introduction to qualitative thinking

    Week 2-3: Language as social practice

    Week 4: Taste and society

    Week 5: Who gets to call it art?

    Week 6: Narrative research: an introduction

    Week 7: What is cultural authenticity?

    Week 8: Ideas of the handmade or the neurobiology of beauty

    Week 9: The qualities of food

    Week 10: Student groups present digital objects on value judgements

       

       

      Teaching

      The course runs for three hours a week in Term 2 of Year 2 as follows:

      Lecturer:Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen
      Module code:BASC0006
      Lecture:2-4pm on Tuesdays
      Seminar*:10-11am on Wednesdays or 11am-12pm on Wednesdays or 11am-12pm on Thursdays or 4-5pm on Thursdays
      Module level:Level 5
      Credit value:15 credits

      * Students are automatically allocated to a seminar class, so it is not possible to select one. Students will only be permitted to switch class if there is a clash with another class.

      Assessment (2018/19)

      The course is assessed solely by coursework as follows:

      1. Individually assessed report and evaluation of group project (2,000 words) - 60%
      2. Group assessment of digital object (equivalent to 1,500 words per student) - 40%

      Assessment (2019/20)

      The course is assessed solely by coursework as follows:

      1. Individually assessed report and evaluation of group project (1,500 words) - 40%
      2. Group assessment of digital object (equivalent to 2,000 words per student) - 60%

      Students enrolled on the module can view more information on Moodle.