Qualitative Research Methods module (PY51002)

Learn how to use data arising from interviews, observation, and naturally-occurring conversation in psychological research

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Many questions of interest to psychologists are complex and such complexity requires we use a variety of methods and analytic techniques. One such method is qualitative research.

Qualitative research in psychology explores how individuals interpret, understand, and communicate their experiences. Researchers gather data using methods such as interviews, observation and the analysis of naturally occurring conversations.

Unlike quantitative research, which deals with numerical data obtained using some sort of measuring device (e.g. a questionnaire measuring attitudes towards a particular issue), qualitative research typically gathers unstructured data and tries to explore patterns within such data (e.g. themes within an interview, the ways in which people express negative evaluations of others without sounding as if they are prejudiced, etc.).

This module will develop your understandings of the value of such research and the analytic skills that are required within the field.

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • explore various forms of qualitative data and their relevance for psychological research
  • study the diverse ways in which such data can be gathered, read, and analysed
  • understand the diverse ways in which such analyses can be reported and communicated
  • learn how such analyses can complement research using quantitative (numeric) data
  • discover how such analyses can address questions that cannot be explored using quantitative (numeric) data
  • examine the ethical issues involved in gathering and analysing qualitative data

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the skills required in order to conduct high quality research using qualitative data
  • understand and evaluate research using
    • interview research techniques
    • observational and ethnographic research
    • naturally occurring texts (such as speeches, conversations, etc.)
  • appreciate
    • the importance of treating people’s language as a topic of interest in its own right
    • the value of small-scale qualitative research in theory development
    • the applicability of small-scale qualitative research for addressing practical problems

Assignments / assessment

  • essay - reflective account (30%)
    • on your experiences in undertaking a practical exercise involving content analysis
  • essay - review (30%)
    • of your understanding of the strengths and weaknesses associated with small-scale case studies
  • essay - reflective account (40%)
    • on the logic and practice of selected qualitative research traditions

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • seminar discussions of selected research articles illustrating different qualitative research strategies
  • hands-on engagement with different forms of qualitative data
  • student presentations of their own analysis


This module is available on following courses: