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Unit information: Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences in 2021/22

Unit name Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences
Unit code SOCIM0013
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Nelson
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

The unit offers graduate level grounding in the rationale, strengths and limitations of a selection of key research methods most commonly utilised in contemporary qualitative social research. The training covers topics that may include the reasons why qualitative research methods are adopted; a range of the most common methods used; the ethics and problems associated with conducting qualitative research; the use of observation, ethnography, interviews and focus groups as research methods; the use of archives and documents; visual research; techniques in e-research; research design; the use of covert and overt research; data protection; intellectual property rights; plus practical sessions on information retrieval, and the ethics and governance of data protection.


  • To explain the philosophical background to qualitative forms of social research
  • To make students aware of the wide variety of qualitative social research methods and how to select the techniques most appropriate to their task
  • To aid students in understanding how to formulate focused research questions and how to translate these into manageable projects
  • To make students aware of practical issues in information retrieval and the ethics of data protection

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Capacity to design qualitative research on substantive area of interest to social science, using appropriate methodological tools
  • Ability to evaluate the research practice, data and interpretations of others
  • Sensitivity to ethical dimensions of social research
  • Appreciation of a reflexive approach to social research
  • Capacity to work as part of a team, as well as individually

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

Summative assessment will have two elements:

A). Research Design (maximum 1500 words, 25% of total assessment)

Research Design involves the following: students will be asked to design a qualitative research project which will incorporate identifying research question, aims and objectives, methodology (including ethical and political issues raised) and rationale for chosen methodology.

B.) 1 assessed essay (1 question from choice of 8) (2500 words, 75% of total assessment).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SOCIM0013).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.