Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences POLITIC4138

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

The course introduces qualitative research methods commonly used in the Social Sciences.


Lecture - Tuesdays 10-11. Two-hour weekly tutorial - times to be confirmed.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

The entry requirements for Honours (Joint and Single) in Politics.


Recommended Entry Requirements

Excluded Courses




The summative assessment will consist of:

■ Critical Methodological Appraisal (40% of the final grade)

Students will be provided with a choice of academic articles which report on research findings, and will be expected to conduct a critical appraisal of the methodological approach taken. The critical appraisal is designed to provide students with the opportunity to critically appraise the overall appropriateness of the research design underpinning a piece of published research. This will involve assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the particular methodological approach adopted in the research, and commenting on its suitability to address the research questions.


■ Data Analysis Project (60% of the final grade)

This is a qualitative data project where you are required to identify secondary qualitative data from the UK Data Archive, reflect on the data that you identify and do an analysis of that data, this will include reflecting on the data collection methods and their strengths and weaknesses.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course provides an introduction to qualitative methods in the social sciences. The course covers: populations and samples; ethnography and participant observation; ethical and political issues; validity and reliability in qualitative research; interviewing; mixed methods (combining qualitative and quantitative approaches); analysing qualitative data (thematic analysis; content analysis; discourse analysis); technological innovations in research; using the internet and new social medias; using documents as data.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ identify and discuss the range of theoretical traditions in qualitative research methodology;

■ identify and discuss the ethical, moral and political dimensions of qualitative research;

■ demonstrate an understanding of the principles of qualitative research design;

■ critically analyse qualitative research from a methodological standpoint;

■ define and formulate a research question and devise an appropriate qualitative methodological strategy;

■ assess qualitative research techniques including the advantages and disadvantages of such techniques as interviews, focus groups and observation and qualitative data analysis methodologies.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.