SOAS University of London

Centre for Global Media and Communications

Qualitative Research Methods

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Term 1

The module will respond to the need to provide MA students at the Centre for Media Studies with the necessary knowledge about methods in research. The module will therefore help students write their dissertations by engaging with appropriate methods for research and provide a rationale for using a particular method in their work. The module will help students prepare for their dissertations in a systematic way and approach their dissertation with a clearer idea about how to design their research and execute it.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. demonstrate an understansing of qualtitiave research process                                            
  2. assess which methods are appropriate to their own research interests and work.
  3. be familiar with the key debates and issues in research: quantitative versus qualitative research; different qualitative research methods; issues of reflexivity and research ethics; research of online communities; the relationship between ‘big data’ and qualitative research.
  4. be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of some of the more commonly used qualitative methods, in order to recognise which method is appropriate to answer which question, and what conclusions can and cannot be reached from the findings.
  5. be able to critically evaluate different research designs used in the literature and to understand about how this might apply to their work

Scope and syllabus

1. Introduction to qualitative research methods, their epistemology and their difference from quantitative methods
2. Corpus construction and iteration of findings as key steps in qualitative research
3. Participant observation
4. Interviews
5. Text and document analysis
6. multi-site research: collaborative, multi-site, virtual research
7. sound and images
8. ethics of research
9. coding, tools to capture data and to analyse it, writing of research findings
10. conclusion: qualitative research in context.

Method of assessment

  • Students will be required to do an exercise of participant observation, and record it. The paper will consist of written field diary notes, on which students will receive feedback from the instructor. A minimum of 1,500 words - worth 20%
  • interviews: students will be required to do three interviews, transcribe the first half hour of each of them, and summarize them all. A minimum of 2,000 words - worth 20%
  • virtual/collaborative research: students will be required to do a few days of ‘virtual’ fieldwork on an online platform of their choosing, and to collate field notes, chat transcripts, screen captures, and logs of their interaction with research participants (to insure that the ethics of research are respected). A minimum of 1,500 words - worth 20%
  • sound/image research: students will be required to find a specific research question and answer it through sounds and/or images, with a minimum written commentary - worth 20%
  • participation in class discussion, activities and presentations - worth 20%

Suggested reading

  • American Association for Public Opinion Research Big Data Task Force. (2015). Report on Big Data. (available online)
  • Bauer, M.W. and Gaskell, G.D. (2000). Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound. London: SAGE Publishers. (available in the SOAS library)
  • Becker, H.S. (2008). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. University of Chicago Press. (available in the SOAS library)
  • Becker, H.S. (1998). Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about Your Research While You’re Doing It. University of Chicago Press. (available in the SOAS library)
  • Boellstorff, T. Nardi, B., Pearce, C, & Taylor, T. L. (2012). Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method. Princeton University Press (available in the SOAS library)
  • Creswell, J.W. (2002). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. SAGE Publications. (available in the SOAS library)
  • Emerson, R.M. (2011). Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. University of Chicago Press. (available in the SOAS library)


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