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Educ 619.2 – Qualitative Research Methods

Spring 2007- Schedule # 24203
Draft syllabus - Final version with weekly details available in class

Gretchen Rossman , 277 Hills South - gretchen@educ.umass.edu  
Mondays 4-6:30PM
- 273-275 Hills South
Office Hours:
by appointment

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:

  • the assumptions and theoretical traditions of qualitative research;
  • the role of the researcher in qualitative inquiry;
  • preparing for fieldwork and negotiating agreement about the inquiry;
  • typical qualitative data collection methods;
  • collecting and organizing data in the field;
  • analyzing and interpreting qualitative data;
  • ensuring accurate, rich, and useful qualitative studies;
  • ethical and political dilemmas in qualitative research; and
  • writing the research report.

COURSE MATERIALS

Available at Food for Thought Books, No. Pleasant Street, Amherst:

Rossman, G. B., & Rallis, S. F. (2003). Learning in the field: An introduction to qualitative research , 2 nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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:

    • short prospectus describing your study – due Week 3 – February 12
    • preliminary personal reflections – due Week 4 – Febuary 26
    • 'first days in the field' paper including field notes excerpt – due Week 6 – March 12
    • interviewing paper including transcript excerpt – due Week 7 – March 26
    • reflections on ethical issues – due Week 9 – April 9
    • analytic memo – due Week 11 – April 23
    • final research report – due Week 13 – May 7
    • final reflections – due Week 14 – May 14

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.

Please note: If you have some disabling condition or other circumstance that might require accommodation for the completion of written and other assignments, please inform me in writing as soon as possible to ensure your success in the course.


GRADING POLICY

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:
  • Competent completion of the required papers – 80% (10% for each of papers 2-7, excluding the first short prospectus; 20% for the final research report and reflections papers)

This criterion assesses students’ developing abilities to design and conduct a small-scale research project. This includes identifying and reflecting on issues that arise; integrating the methodological literature into discussions of those issues; and writing critically at the graduate level.

  • Participation in class discussions and activities – 20%

This criterion assesses students’ diligence and thoughtfulness in reading methodological literature, identifying points of contradiction and application, and applying key ideas from the literature to class discussions.

For the first three papers that are required for the course, I will give you fairly extensive feedback on your writing, including line-editing as well as comments on your logic and the development of an argument. For the remaining papers, I will not give you this feedback but will take writing (both argumentation and mechanics) into account in assigning grades.