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FASS510 Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences (includes FASS610-616 and FASS630)


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. Each session addresses a specific method, such as ethnography, interviews or text analysis. 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 1)
  • FASS611: Ethnography & Participant Observation (weeks 2-3)
  • FASS612L: Interviewing as a Research Technique (weeks 4-5)
  • FASS615: Focus Groups (week 6)
  • FASS613: Mixed Methods Research (week 7)
  • FASS630: Action Research, Autoethnography and Other Creative Methods (week 8)
  • FASS616: Text Analysis for Social Scientists (week 9)
  • FASS614: Validity, Reliability & Generalisabilty in Qualitative Research (week 10)

Places on the sessions are limited to 40. We will allocate places 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. We will also consider your attendance record at previous RTP modules. If you are unsuccessful in getting on the sessions this year we will, however, give you priority for 2016-17.

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 used in the social sciences. It 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 research methods such as participant observation, interviews, focus groups 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, you 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 different projects.

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

  • 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 topics 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.

Paulus, T.M.; Lester, J.N. and Dempster, P.G. (2014) Digital tools for qualitative research. 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




08/10/2015 - 03/12/2015

Number of sessions:

10 x 2 hour sessions

Timing and Location:

Thursdays, weeks 1-10, 2.00-4.00

Weeks 1-2: Furness Lecture Theatre 3


Week 3: Management School Lecture Theatre 11

Weeks 4-9: County South A70

Week 14: Bowland North Seminar Room 02



Additional information

Minimum quota: 6.

Maximum quota: 40   



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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RTP 2015-16

Information about the RTP for 2015-16 is being added to these pages as and when it becomes available. Registration is now open and must be done on the RTP registration form.

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