Chapter 2 Structure of the course

2.1 An overview

2.1.1 Some mechanics

This course meets twice a week, on Wednesdays at 16:00, and on Fridays at 9:00 for three hours; but, the course only runs for the first six weeks of the semester. Thus, the average student should expect to spend 25 hours per week on course related activities. My office is in room 439, of the Owen G. Glenn Building (260-439), and—during term time—I have office hours on Wednesday at 15:00. My email address is mail@petersmith.org.

2.1.2 Not so mechanistic: My assumptions about you

Having completed BUSINESS 710,1 you should have a sense of the academic conversation in which you wish to participate. This implies that you can locate that discussion in terms of: the discipline/sub-field to which it belongs; the ontology and epistemology upon which the conversation is based; the (types) of theories that are typically used; the journals that are relevant; and the appropriate methodological position (Huff, 2009, p. 7). Everything else being equal, your choices regarding research method are a function of your choice of academic conversation.

Part of the process of qualitative research is, hopefully, increasing clarity regarding that conversation. It is not unusual to still be getting clear on your conversation even at the very last stages of doing research; e.g., responding to feedback from reviewers of papers when trying to publish your research.

warning You do not need to base your work in this course on the research proposal you prepared in BUSINESS 710. But you do need to have a sense of the conversation to which you want to participate.

My second assumption is that—sooner or later in your academic career—you will want to make a contribution to that conversation; i.e., you will need to design and undertake some research (albeit that the specific design of that research will be shaped by a range of factors beyond your research question, as shown in Figure 2.1.

Design decisions connecting research purpose and outcomes [@huff_2009_designingresearchpublication p. 86].

Figure 2.1: Design decisions connecting research purpose and outcomes (Huff, 2009, p. 86).

2.2 The general structure of the course

This course is divided into five major topics: You and qualitative research, Qualitative methods, Collecting qualitative data, Analysing qualitative data, and Presenting your results. However, to maximise the amount of time you can spend practising with the tools and techniques of qualitative methods, the course is structured around three concurrent streams of activities:

  1. Knowledge of qualitative research methods in general.
  2. Skills in using the various techniques and tools of qualitative research.
  3. Knowledge of the position of qualitative research methods in your chosen academic conversation.

Work stream 1 activities will largely take place inside the class; e.g., practising doing interviews, but will also require work outside of the too, such as developing an interview schedule.

Activities relating to Work stream 2 mainly be addressed through tasks regarding specific readings (e.g., from the textbooks).

In contrast, work stream 3 activities will be based around you identifying and reading around your specific research conversation, and bringing those insights into the classroom to share with your colleagues.

You will do most of the tasks around work streams 2 and 3 outside of the classroom.

2.3 Topic guide

Week Knowledge focus Skill focus
1 You and qualitative research methods

Collecting qualitative data

  • Interviews
2

Research methods

  • Action research
  • Focus groups
  • Participant observation
3
  • Case study research
  • Archival research

Analysing qualitative data

  • Thematic analysis
4
  • Ethnographic research
  • Hermeneutics
  • Semiotics
5
  • Grounded theory
  • Narrative analysis
  • Discourse analysis
6 Presenting your results

2.4 Pattern of work

The pattern of your work in this class, is generally:

  1. Complete the tasks to prepare for the classwork
  2. Do exercises in class
  3. Write your learning journal
  4. Review the learning journals that you have been allocated

2.5 Workload

As already noted, the average student should expect to spend about 20 hours each week doing work related to this course (including class time). To guide your efforts, I have indicated the approximate time you should spend on each of the major tasks described in the week-by-week guide (Chapter 2.6).

A typical allocation of time to this course looks like this:

Activity Hours
Prep for first class 7
Class time (first class) 3
Prep for second class 7
Class time (second class) 3
Writing learning journal 3
Reviewing learning journals 2
Total time 25

If you find that my estimations of the time you need is widely out, please let me know; that way I can either:

  • Help with alternate strategies for tackling the tasks, or
  • Change or remove some of the tasks.

2.6 Week-by-week in detail

My starting point in organising both the class, and the following chapters, is to constantly focus on what I want you to be able to do in class. Given that, what you need—in terms of resources, support, and practice–becomes evident.

As a consequence of that approach, for each week, you will see a high-level description (class plan) for each class. You will also see a list of tasks that you need to do to be appropriately prepared for the class. Whilst ‘topics’ in the class plan are framed as question, your preparatory tasks are not necessarily structured to directly answer those questions. Instead, they provide the building blocks from which we can—together—address those questions.

Note: There are citations scattered throughout this course guide. They are not necessarily prompts for you to do extra reading. Rather, they point you towards the sources of ideas that are used here (should you be so interested). Items that you are expected to read will have that expectation explicitly stated.

2.7 The hidden agenda

If this course has a hidden agenda it is to foster the development of your ‘qualitative mindset’; a robust link between ones espoused epistemology and ontology and how one approaches understanding the social world.


  1. You should have completed some form of research design course before undertaking this course.