Qualitative Research Methods (Urban Studies/Sociology 450

Qualitative Research MethodsSaint Peter’s University: Fall 2013

This course introduces students to social science research with a primary focus on qualitative methods within sociology and urban studies. Drawing on students’ routine experiences as both ‘researcher’ and ‘research subject,’ this course critically considers the epistemology and ontology of research within the social sciences as well as in everyday life. This course addresses questions such as i) How does research produce knowledge? ii) how does research operate within everyday life? iii) what is the link between theory and practice when using qualitative methods? And iii) what are the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to qualitative methods? Students explore research design issues including developing research questions and/or aims, selecting meaningful methods, and the ethics of research in contemporary information societies.

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop a general understanding of qualitative research including relevant theories and methods and their implementation with in sociology and the social sciences.
  • Apply unobtrusive, interview, and descriptive research methods in real world settings.
  • Demonstrate competency in developing appropriate qualitative data analysis.

Themed Reading Modules

  • The Right to Research
  • Producing Knowledges Through Research Relationships
  • Designing Research Projects
  • Proprietary Research Methods
  • Participatory Research Methods
  • Ethical Research in Contemporary Information Societies

Course Structure
Discussion Facilitator – Each student will take the lead in facilitating one class discussion. Facilitators will publish a collection of digital media along with three questions to the course blog at least 48 hours prior to their assigned class. Both media (i.e. websites, videos, podcasts, music, etc …) and the questions (open-ended) must be related to the assigned readings and designed to stimulate discussion.

Jersey City Research Project – Together, the class will develop a small-scale mixed methods research project focused on Jersey City. The aims and methods of this project will be collaboratively designed by the class with the goal of producing an interactive project report on a particular matter of concern to Jersey City residents. The course of action, distribution of responsibility, and project timeline will be negotiated as a group during class (and on the course blog). The class will be graded as a group, meaning all participants will receive the same grade for this project.

Midterm and Final Exam – There will be a midterm and final exam covering the assigned readings, discussions, and lectures. The exam will include a combination of multiple choice (mostly definitional) and short answer questions. Sample short answer questions and a list of concepts to be reviewed will be posted to the course site approximately a week before the midterm and final exams.