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FASS510 Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences (includes FASS610-616)


Module description

Format and ways of participating in this 'module'

This is not a module in the conventional sense, but a series of sessions introducing you to research methods used in the social sciences. Some of these are introduced in one session (2 hours), others in 2 sessions (2 x 2 hours, offered in consecutive weeks). Sessions are independent of each other and it is up to you to choose which topics you are most interested in and which sessions you would like to attend. Note though that if a topic is introduced over two sessions, you should attend both.

There are two ways of participating in this 'module'. You can either choose the sessions you are interested in and attend just these. Please note that you need to register for each session that you would like to attend. Some of you may wish to attend all sessions. MA or PhD students who wish to participate in the assessment are required to attend all sessions, and should register for FASS510 rather than for the individual sessions.

Overview of the sessions:

  • FASS610: Introduction to Qualitative Research (week 11)
  • FASS611: Ethnography & Participant Observation (weeks 12-13)
  • FASS612: Interviewing as a Research Technique (weeks 14-15)
  • FASS616: Text Analysis for Social Scientists (week 16)
  • FASS613: Visual Methods in the Social Sciences & Humanities (week 17)
  • FASS615: Focus Groups (weeks 18-19)
  • FASS614: Validity, Reliability & Generalisabilty in Qualitative Research (week 20)

Places on the sessions are limited to 40. All applicants will be contacted towards the end of Michaelmas Term to check whether they still wish to take the sessions they registered for and whether they have any specific reasons for needing to take them in the current year. It will be assumed that those who do not reply by the date specified no longer wish to take their sessions. Places will be allocated in the following order of priority: Masters students taking all sessions as an assessed element of their degree; FASS students; students who need to take specific sessions this year (for example because they will not be at Lancaster next year); first-year students; order of date of receipt of application. Students' attendance record at previous RTP modules will also be taken into consideration. Those who are unsuccessful in getting on the sessions this year will, however, be given priority for 2014-15.

As places on the sessions are limited, please inform the RTP Administrator as soon as possible if you no longer wish to take it, so that your place can be offered to another student.


Aims and objectives

The sessions are aimed at MA and PhD students who are planning to use or simply wish to learn more about qualitative methodologies, techniques and data. The sessions aim to provide an overview and introduction to the range of qualitative methods and approaches used in the social sciences. The sessions also intend to make students familiar with important epistemological issues relating to the social sciences ('how can we study the social world'?) and with questions of validity and generalisability in the context of qualitative research.

The module is suitable for students who already know something about qualitative research as well as for those who are mostly familiar with quantitative methods. Individual sessions deal with participant observation, interviews, focus groups, visual and textual analysis. The module will include some analysis of the epistemological assumptions underlying qualitative research but this is not the major focus. Each session will draw on examples from different studies and there will be time for students to share and discuss their own research. The sessions do not cover data analysis.

Each session has its own specific learning outcomes relating to the topic dealt with. For example, at the end of the two sessions on interviews, students are expected to be familiar with the main types of interviews used by qualitative researchers, to be able to identify some of the challenges of interviewing as a research technique and to judge the suitability of interviews as a research method for a specific project.

The more general learning outcomes for the series of sessions are as follows:

  • to be familiar with key methodological issues and challenges concerning qualitative research
  • to be familiar with different qualitative research methods
  • to be able to identify the advantages and challenges of different methods
  • to have an idea about how research questions and your underlying theories relate to research methods
  • to be able to describe in writing the methods they use in their own research and to discuss their strengths and weaknesses


Reading list

Davies, C. A. (2008), Reflexive Ethnography, 2nd Ed. London, Routledge.

Fetterman, D.M. (2010), Ethnography: Step-By-Step, 3rd Ed. Los Angeles, Sage.Flick, U. (2007). Designing qualitative research. London: Sage.

Hennink, M., Bailey, A. & Hutter, I. (2010), Qualitative Research Methods, London, Sage.

King, N. & Horrocks, C. (2010), Interviewing in Qualitative Research, Los Angeles, California, Sage.

Kvale, S. (2007), Doing Interviews, London, Sage.

Saldana, J. (2011), Fundamentals of Qualitative Research, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Tracy, S.J. (2013) Qualitative research methods. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.


Timing and Location




14/01/14 - 18/03/14

Number of sessions:

10 x 2 hour sessions

Timing and Location:

Tuesdays, weeks 11-20, 10.00-12.00, Bowland North Seminar Room 10


Additional information

Other staff involved: Karin Tusting, Linguistics

Minimum quota: 6. Maximum quota: 40

Charge to non-FASS departments:

  • FASS510: £433
  • FASS610, FASS613, FASS614, FASS616: £43
  • FASS611, FASS612, FASS615: £87



Coursework and Assessment

Coursework requirements

5,000 word essay on any aspect of the module.

Coursework due dates

to be announced

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Graduate School, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
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