DESIGN AND OBJECTIVES
This course provides an introduction to the assumptions, language, logic, and methods of qualitative inquiry in a variety of settings. The emphasis is on the modes of thinking and specific practices associated with generic as well as collaborative approaches to qualitative research. We discuss paradigms, their usefulness in understanding the assumptions implicit in all inquiry, and the typical assumptions of qualitative inquiry. We also focus on conceptualizing and designing qualitative studies and discuss strategies for developing researchable questions and the issues associated with involving participants in the research process. The major work of the course is the conduct of a small-scale qualitative research project which entails a number of activities: (1) designing the project; (2) negotiating agreement to conduct inquiry; (3) practicing the specific methods typically used in qualitative research: interviewing, observing, and document review; (4) analyzing and interpreting the data gathered through the fieldwork; and (5) writing up the process and findings in a set of coherent and well-argued papers. Since learning about qualitative research is best accomplished by doing it, immersion in the course and its work is essential and typically requires a substantial time commitment.
Through readings, discussion, class exercises and assignments, we will work through the following topics:
Available at Food for Thought Books, No. Pleasant Street, Amherst:
In addition, there is a course pack of supplementary readings, referred to in the syllabus as Collected Readings (abbreviated as CR). In the first class, I will have available copies of the course packs and inform you what they will cost. Additional articles may be assigned.
REQUIREMENTS & EXPECTATIONS
There are two major requirements for the course: (1) the competent, thorough, and thoughtful completion of the small-scale research project, and (2) active participation in class in both small- and large-group settings. The written assignments help you reflect on and critique your learning about the practice of qualitative methods and to further the successful conduct of your project. All written assignments are to include appropriate references to the methodological literature that we read (and others that you may be familiar with). The following written assignments are required and due on the date indicated:
There are detailed guidelines for each short paper and the final research report which are included in the Guidelines for Written Assignments and In-Class Activities packet and will be discussed in class prior to the assignment. Written assignments are to be typed or word-processed using APA style for references and formatting, double-spaced, and left-justified. Please edit carefully for both mechanics and content. Don't assume that just spell-checking the document is sufficient. In addition to the written requirements, I expect you to come to class meetings with all readings prepared, ready to discuss them and to participate in class discussions.
This course is graded with a pass-fail option. If you wish to exercise the pass-fail option, please inform me in writing by the third week of class (February 12). The criteria for assessing performance on a graded basis are applied to determine excellent performance (A); very strong performance (A-); strong performance (B+), and adequate performance (B). A grade of C indicates failure at the graduate level. The criteria are: