Introduction to Qualitative Methods A
Course Code: PUBLG004A
Course Tutor: Dr Cathy Elliott (Department of Political Science)
Assessment: One 3,000 word assignment
Credit Value: 15
About this course
This course is required of all students pursuing an MSc from the School of Public Policy, including degrees in Democracy and Comparative Politics, European Public Policy, Global Governance and Ethics, International Public Policy, Public Policy and Security Studies. MA Human Rights students may also opt to take this course as their compulsory research methods option. As an alternative to this course, students may opt to take Advanced Qualitative Research Methods (PUBLG105) should they prefer.
Is gay marriage more likely to attract public support if politicians talk about it in terms of “family values”? Are prisoners who are detained in facilities that offer educational programmes less likely to offend on their release? Even though there is a strong correlation between a region’s wealth and its child mortality rates, why do some regions, like Kerala, manage to buck the trend and deliver high infant survival rates despite being very poor? How do people living in East London make sense of the changes in their lives and local area since hosting the Olympic Games? What sorts of national identities are constructed by discourses on Scottish and Welsh devolution?
This course won’t give you the answers to these questions. But it will give you the tools to design research that could help you answer them yourself – and all sorts of other important questions of interest to policy-makers, politicians and academics alike. All of these questions are, like many of the questions facing policy-makers, quite difficult to answer using only numbers and statistical techniques. Like many political questions, they require us to deal with meanings, values, language, processes and experiences. Research about these important areas of human political life is what we will how learn to do on this course.
The course is designed with the goal of introducing students to different qualitative methods that may be used by social scientists and policy researchers, including case studies, interviews, focus groups, ethnography, content analysis, survey research and discourse analysis. We start by looking at some of the philosophical assumptions underlying different types of qualitative research and then we will move on to develop and practise the skills needed to design, carry out, analyse and evaluate all these different research strategies.
By the end of the course, students should be well-equipped to understand the methods employed in political and social research, and to evaluate the use of these methods in answering questions about politics. Additionally, after completing the module, students should feel equipped to use these methods (if appropriate) in their own dissertations and in their subsequent careers.