module specification

PC6050 - Qualitative Research Methods in Psychology (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Qualitative Research Methods in Psychology
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Assignment 1: Data (2000-2500 words)
Coursework 50%   Assignment 2: Analysis (2000-2500 words)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Friday Afternoon

Module summary

This module is designed to develop students’ knowledge, understanding and skills in qualitative research.  Emphasis will be placed on the exploration of the links between epistemology, methodology and theoretical explanations in psychology.  In doing this, students will be introduced to a range of qualitative approaches to data collection and data analysis.
Teaching sessions will deliver core material and enable students to gain some practical experience of different methods of qualitative data collection and analysis.
The module will enable students to develop qualitative research skills, and confidently design and write up qualitative research projects. It is strongly recommended that students undertaking a Qualitative Project take this module.

Prior learning requirements

PC5001 Research Design and Analysis in Psychology

Module aims

This module aims to develop students’ knowledge, understanding and skills in qualitative research. 
Specifically, to,
1. develop further students’ understanding of the link between epistemology, methodology and theoretical explanations in psychology;
2. introduce students to different approaches to data collection and data analysis, within a qualitative research framework;
3. enable students to design qualitative research studies (including appropriate consideration of ethical issues)
4. develop students’ ability to write reports of psychological studies by introducing them to the structures and approaches used in qualitative research



Topics will be drawn from,
— Introduction to different epistemological and methodological positions in qualitative research.
— Approaches to data collection (e.g., observation techniques, interviewing techniques, focus groups, use of archival sources, diary techniques).
— Data analysis methods based on different epistemological and methodological positions (e.g. contextualism (e.g., grounded theory, ethnography); constructivism (e.g., discourse analysis, narrative analysis); phenomenology (e.g. interpretative phenomenologial analysis)
— Design of qualitative research studies.
— Structure and approach in reporting qualitative research.
— Ethical issues in qualitative research.
— Use of computer-based analysis packages for qualitative research, where appropriate.

Learning and teaching

Lectures will deliver core material (e.g., key perspectives, empirical work and theoretical explanations) and will provide a framework for further reading and independent study.
The workshops will require preparatory work on the part of the students and are a place where students can reflect on their own learning and personal growth. These will also provide practical elements where methods of data collection and analysis are used.
There will be opportunity also for students to complete a reflective diary stored on WebLearn with access available from the module leader to discuss any issues thoughts and ideas that come up during the module.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student will:

  1. have an understanding of the link between epistemology, methodology and theoretical explanations in psychology
  2. be able to employ different methods of data collection and data analysis within qualitative research
  3. be able to design studies within a qualitative research framework
  4. have an understanding of the ethical issues involved in qualitative research
  5. be able to write a report of qualitative research study in an appropriate format
  6. be able to apply appropriate criteria to evaluating qualitative research
  7. be able to demonstrate competence in a particular area of qualitative research which could then be employed in the psychology project

These outcomes also aim to provide students with the qualities and transferable skills applicable to many forms of subsequent employment.

Assessment strategy

Summative assessment will be coursework based. The assessment comprises two pieces of coursework arising from related practical work.   Each piece of coursework tests different aspects of Learning Outcomes 1 – 7. 

The first focuses on designing and developing materials for data collection (e.g., interview schedule, observation framework) which are then piloted and critically evaluated.  The coursework report includes an introduction to the methodological assumptions behind this approach, a description of the development process, the materials and a critical evaluation of the data collection method. 

The second focuses on employing a particular method of analysing and interpreting data (e.g., Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Discourse Analysis) on the data set (e.g., interview transcripts, secondary materials).  The coursework report includes a description of the process of analysis, a discussion of the philosophical and epistemologial assumptions behind the analysis, the interpretation rendered, and an evaluation of the approach used. 
For each piece of coursework, students are given a choice of three equivalent assignments: in the first case, these vary in terms of the method of data collection to be employed; and in the second, in terms of the approach to analysing and interpreting data.  The purpose of this is to enable students to select the methods which may be of most interest/ relevance to them  which may then feed into their knowledge surrounding their psychology project.

There will be ample opportunity for discussion in class, practical elements to the different methods of data collection and analysis through the workshops and through one to one webbased discussions with the lecturer using Journal facility on weblearn allowing formative assessment.


Denzin, Norman K. and Lincoln, Yvonna S. Introduction: Entering the Field of Qualitative Research. In: N. K. Denzin and Y. Lincoln, eds., Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1-17.

Flick, U. (2006) An Introduction to Qualitative Research, 3rd edition London: Sage

Lyons, E and Coyle, E (Eds) (2008) Analysing Qualitative Data in Psychology. Sage

Mays, N., & Pope, C. (1995). Rigour and qualitative research. British Medical Journal, 311, 109-112.Robson, C. (2002). A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers (Rev. 2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell

Murray, M. & Chamberlain, K. (Eds.) (1999). Qualitative Health Psychology: Theories and Methods.  London: Sage.

Silverman, D. (2004) Qualitative research : theory, method and practice London : Sage,
Smith, J. A. (2007) Qualitative Psychology. A Practical Guide to Research Methods, 2nd ed: London Sage

Willig, C. (2008) Introducing Qualitative Research in Psychology. Adventures in theory and method, Second edition