Welcome to the Qualitative Research Methods module. This is the second stage of preparing for your minithesis research study, so we have tried to guide you through the process with some breadth but along as straight a path as possible. The module is therefore quite practical, although in a number of topics, some theoretical underpinnings are needed.
The module itself has four units: the first explores the approach itself, distinguishing it from quantitative research, focusing on its application and theoretical underpinnings. Unit 2 is devoted to all the considerations you should engage with in order to design your study. You need to reach the end of Unit 2 in order to submit your assignment. Unit 3 is practically orientated, with the focus on data collection and the particular ethical considerations that come with qualitative research; and finally, Unit 4 looks at the major stumbling block for many students of qualitative research, analysis, and how you write up and discuss the findings that come with analysis.
Readings and Support
Your primary reading and support is Colin Robson’s Real World Research (2011) and you should be aware that the publisher, Wiley and Sons, has also assembled a comprehensive website, and you are directed to its resources in the course of your reading. The process of registering for the site (which is free with the book) is described in “Ways of Using the Book” at the beginning of it. You must have access to the book from the outset. In addition to papers and chapters which present aspects of methods, we have included a number of journal articles in your Reader which use qualitative research methods. There are also a number of journals purely dedicated to qualitative research and we urge you to join their mailing lists so that you are alerted to new editions. Reading qualitative studies regularly is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the approach.
Data Analysis Package
Many of you will be aware that software has been designed to support the analysis process, Atlas ti being the one for which University of the Western Cape has purchased licenses. This year, we will not even attempt to incorporate it in our teaching, but you may request it to be loaded on your computer when at the UWC, and if you wish to, you can teach yourself to use it. You cannot however afford to spend time on it now, at the expense of your study design. So in this module, we will focus on “manual” analysis. The principles are the same. If you attend Minithesis Week at the end of Winter School, you can attend some introductory sessions, and then use the built in manual and tutorials to get yourself up to speed before you undertake your analysis.
However, up to a few years ago, we all conducted our analysis “manually” so for those of you who do not take to computer programmes like ducks to water, manual analysis will be fine!
This module builds on your learnings from Public Health Research so we would like you to establish a research diary (physical or electronic). Into it we advise that you put your assignments from that module since you will now be taking that topic forward. A strong piece of advice is not to “wobble” at this stage and explore another topic. Your time is limited; this is not the last opportunity for research, and this is not your life’s work. You have already (we hope) taken a big step towards your minithesis in completing a substantial literature review of your topic, so do not throw this contribution away now; but be aware that the process of conducting a literature review may have suggested to you alternate study questions and problems – so your aim and objectives may change.
There is also a folder with additional resources of interest on your USB flash drive.
Ikamva Discussion Forum Tutorials
There will be an iKamva site set up for this module. We will send you a schedule and instructions with regard to logging into the site.
iKamva provides an all-in one site hosting the Module Guides, the materials on the USB flash drive and Reader. We may also add readings that seem relevant during the course of the module. The iKamva site will allow us to communicate with one another about general and administrative issues as well as hold discussion forums or tutorials, wherein we plan to tackle difficult concepts and to offer some preparation support for your assignments.
A word of advice about the Discussion Forum process: education theory holds that we learn better (or internalize) new understandings by interacting and even collaborating with other people; they may be peers or experts or anything in-between. Because of the distance between you and us, we will use the Discussion Forum to actively engage you with others, so that you can benefit from their experience and knowledge, and so that you can learn from each other. Whatever your level of experience, you have unique perceptions and points of view about the world; you work in a context that others have little experience of, and through sharing this, you are exposing us to new and important insights about your research process. Your work can serve as a valuable model for other students, and you can help to hone each others’ thinking around issues of appropriate scale and focus of your research study.
Finding your way around the Module Introduction
The introductory pages which follow provide you with an overview of the Module and its outcomes, the assessment requirements, as well as the support and assistance you can expect. Take the time to look through this section and the study schedule provided before you begin studying – taking particular note of the assignments and their requirements, as well as the time pressure that you will face in completing the module.
This module will be assessed through two assignments. Your assignment dates are noted on the study schedule and the assignments will be posted on and submitted through Ikamva. Your marked assignments will also be sent back to you via iKamva along with the individual and group feedback for draft assignments.
Evaluation of the module
At the end of the semester, we will be sending you an evaluation form which we urge you to complete and send to us, this is very important. We wish you all the best with this module.