Title: Research in Action: Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Research method
Qualitative methods
Country: United Kingdom
Institution: UK - Institute for Global Health, University College London
Course coordinator: Mary Wickenden
Date start: 2018-01-08
Date end: 2018-01-26
About duration and dates: 3 weeks & 2 days pre-reading
Classification: advanced optional
Mode of delivery: Face to face
Course location: Institute of Child Health
ECTS credit points: 6 ECTS credits
150 study hours: (40 contact hours, 110 self-study hours)
25 hours lectures, 15 hours seminars/tutorials, 35 hours group research project work, 50 hours private reading, 24 hours written research protocol, 1 hour module evaluation).

Teaching takes place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays in weeks 1 and 2 with study and assessment in week 3. For further information see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/igh/postgraduate/troped-optional
Language: English
At the end of the module students will be able to:

- design a qualitative study and write a protocol describing all aspects of this
- develop qualitative research questions collect qualitative data using interviews and focus group discussions
- explain the theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research in general and be able to give an overview of the main approaches used
- evaluate innovative qualitative data collection methods including the use of observation, visualisations and participatory learning and action research (PLA) processes
- demonstrate understanding of key processes of qualitative analysis of data,
- show understanding of ethical issues and processes in qualitative research show understanding of issues of subjectivity, and reflexivity in qualitative research
- Assess research design and approach according to action research criteria
- Understand and critically analyse qualitative research papers
- Demonstrate understanding of the range of contexts and research topics/questions for which qualitative research is likely to be the appropriate approach.
Assessment Procedures:
Written assignment (60%)

Prepare a research protocol describing a proposed qualitative research project in 2500 words

Assignment should be submitted one week after the end of the module.

Sections of the protocol should include:

- Introduction
What is known about the topic, why it is important (both globally and locally).
Identification of the research gap your study will address.
Use of references to support your arguments.

- Research question and aims and objectives
The question should be one that can be addressed using qualitative methods within a 6 month period. It must not be a question that you aim to address for your dissertation research.

- Study population
Who are the subjects of this research and who will you collect data from (not necessarily the same thing).
What are you studying – a process? A group of people?

- Where and when
Exact location of study, and timetable for research. You must choose a question that can be addressed in a 6 month time period. This can be presented in a table, stating how much time for literature review, data collection, analysis, dissemination etc.

- Methodology, method and tools
You must identify the methodological approach you will take (grounded theory, phenomenology ethnography etc) and must identify the methods of data collection you will use. You should justify your approach and methods. You should explain how you will sample and recruit participants and identify your inclusion and exclusion criteria. Identify the possible biases and limitations of the study and how these will be overcome.

- Budget
Give a brief estimate of how much you think this research will cost to implement. Give a budget showing the breakdown of expenditure with suitable headings and final total amount.

- Outcomes
What are your expected outcomes, and how will these be used? Explain how your results may be used to implement local action addressing the problem/issue being researched. Explain how the results will be disseminated.

Mini research project (40%)

The project will entail working in groups to identify and justify a qualitative research question that can be researched within ICH or the local area over the period of the module. Students will identify a problem or question that can be answered using qualitative methods, and will design and carry out research to address this during the duration of the course. The group will then prepare a poster presentation of their research and present this on the last day of the course to the student group, staff and any relevant visitors.

Students will prepare a brief plan of their research, and this will be approved by the course coordinator or a tutor before data collection starts. Time has been allocated for students to carry out this research and during these times tutorial support will be available to support group work.

As part of the assessment, students will be expected to show that they have transcribed and analysed their data, and must bring these flip charts to the presentation. Students will receive a group mark, based on their reporting of the process and outcomes of their research project. The group poster presentation of the mini research project will also be assessed (style and content of verbal and poster outputs).
This course reviews the theory underpinning qualitative research methods, and gives participants the information and skills they need to design and conduct a group research project as well as plan an individual project. Students are introduced to the general principles of qualitative research and a range of different approaches, and are encouraged to develop research protocols and projects that meet broadly action research criteria. The course briefs the students on when it is appropriate to use different research methods (particularly interviews, focus groups, observations) and gives them the opportunity to practise these methods both in the classroom and in their groups. Students are also introduced to participatory methods of research, including PRA, PLA and participatory action research, and given the opportunity to practice these methods in a workshop.

Students learn how to develop a comprehensive and rigorous research protocol and are guided through the process of formulating a research question, aims and objectives, appropriate sampling, data collection methods, analysis methods and ways of disseminating the research findings in different formats to different audiences. The students can test their learning through the development of their own research protocol and through group research.

Students also critically analyse examples of in-depth qualitative studies published in peer reviewed journals, and their critical analysis is presented and discussed with the class.
Summary of content:

- Overview of theory underpinning qualitative research methods
- Developing qualitative research questions
- Sampling and recruitment of participants in qualitative research
- Developing interview skills, including individual interviews and facilitation of focus group discussions.
- Developing observation skills
- Introducing visualisations for data collection and community involvement in the data collection exercise
- Consideration of ethical issues and processes and the role of the researcher;
- Particular issues and approaches to qualitative participatory research with vulnerable groups;
- Data collection and data handling including transcription and secure management of data
- Methods and approaches to analysis including a practical task with real data to learn this
- Interpreting the data and drawing conclusions.
- An overview of Computer based qualitative analysis (NVivo)
- Writing up and publishing qualitative research
- Examples of qualitative research projects undertaken within IGH (3)
Lectures, workshops, a group project and self-study are the methods used.

The module gives the students the information and access to the resources they need to conduct qualitative research. Through self study, group work and class seminars and discussions students explore how what they have learned can be applied. Experiential learning is used to enable the students to learn about qualitative research through the practice of doing qualitative research. Students design a study, collect, analyse and present data during a mini research project undertaken as part of the module.

Moodle is used to enable students to access information about the course before and during the duration of the course. This will include core readings and PowerPoint slides etc. as well useful links to relevant literature and an extensive reading list of optional material.
English language proficiency

IELTS Standard level: Overall grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each of the subtests.

TOEFL Standard level: Score of 94, plus 24/30 in the reading and writing subtests and 23/30 in the listening and speaking subtests.

For full details, see:


Up to 30 students including tropEd students.
The number of available tropEd places on each module in the academic year is normally determined in mid October. TropEd applicants wishing to secure a place on modules can apply before this period and be placed on a waiting list for the module. Applicants who have paid the course fees will be notified as soon as it is confirmed if places are available on the module(s). Please note that applicants must pay the course fees in order to obtain a confirmed offer of a place on a module, and places are awarded on a first-paid, first-admitted basis. Full course fee refunds will be provided to paid-up applicants if there are no places on the module(s) for which they applied, or if the module is cancelled.
850 GBP
Scholarships: None
Major changes since initial accreditation:
In response to feedback we have introduced specific taught sessions on grounded theory and more teaching and practical sessions on analysis.
Computer based analysis is demonstrated to the class (NVivo).
Examples of real qualitative research projects from staff within IGH are now presented to demonstrate a range of applications of the theory taught.
Tutorial support for the mini group projects has been increased (3 tutors available), and dedicated staff assigned to each group.
Opportunities for individual tutorial time to discuss individual
protocols has been more clearly advertised although was still underused by some students..

Examples of posters of mini research projects and individual protocols from previous years were provided as models of what is expected.

A marksheet of criteria for both the protocol and the group work presentation is provided.
Student evaluation:
Summary of recent module evaluations

19 of 24 students responded to the satisfaction survey
84% enjoyed the module very much or quite a lot
90% said that it would be useful for their future work very much or quite a lot
67% felt that the balance of taught versus personal study time was about right, 1 person felt there was too much teaching, 28% felt there was not enough taught time.
83% felt that the number of topics taught was satisfactory
3 students felt that topics were not covered in enough depth.
2 students requested coverage of topics which are not strictly qualitative research – e.g. systematic reviews and critical appraisal.
No topics were felt to be irrelevant.
Some students wanted either a more theoretical or more practical emphasis (3 in each direction!)

1. What did you find valuable? What did you especially like? What parts of the module were not relevant?

On the whole the students found all parts of the module relevant especially:
The group work mini research task
The PLA methods workshop
The practical tasks – e.g. qualitative analysis, PLA
The mixture of theory and practice
The data analysis session (newly redesigned this year)
The critical appraisal of journal articles

2. What did you find least valuable? What did not work for you? What parts of the module were least relevant?

- A small number of the students felt that the course was not long enough or was too intensive and that these time pressures had effects on what they could do e.g.;
- A few students felt that there was not enough classroom time, and a few felt that there was too much.
 They did not have time to read the literature on the reading list
 They were not able to do justice to their individual research protocols (although tutors felt the standard was high this year)
 Some students wanted more feedback about their skills development in group workshops (e.g. in interviewing or running a group discussion) and felt there wasn’t time for this
 1 student (who was working part-time) found it difficult to arrange meetings with her group with tight deadlines.

All students found the resources on Moodle and the reading list useful

3. Suggestions about how specific parts of the module might be improved

Mini-research project – in response to feedback last year we introduced:-
 Set intermediate deadlines that groups need to stick to such as deadlines for writing aims, coding, etc. This seemed to work quite well, although some groups did not come and use the tutorial time that was available. This will need to be even more structured next year.
All individual taught sessions were rated as good or very good across three domains: quality, interest, usefulness.
The lowest rated individual session was the one on grounded theory by a guest speaker. We will consider changing this for next year.

Is there anything you would like to add to the module?

Only suggestions were:-
A session on systematic reviews which we will suggest is put into one of our core modules but will not be including here.

A practical session on using NVivo. We have done this before in the computer lab but had poor feedback on this so think that a whole class demo is sufficient. We may however make this a bit more in-depth next time and direct students to the online tutorial and demos which are available

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Most of the students expressed how much they liked the course: quotes included:

- The best thing about this module is the practical aspect of it: group project & PRA methods
- excellent module. thoroughly enjoyed it, learnt alot and have acquired a lifelong skill useful for my career
- Re. the individual assigment. This also has been an excellent exercise. I saw some of the lecture points fit into place
- Tutors have been generous with their time and advice.
- Overall I enjoyed the module very much and feel that it has moved me on a step
Lessons learned:
The applied mini-research project in this module continues to be popular with nearly all participants as it provides a short but real experience of all the major steps involved in the qual research process. Students planning to do qual projects for their theses generally find it a valuable preparation for this.
It is as ever difficult to please everyone, some students liking the mix of theory and practice, some wanting more of one or the other. We feel that we provide sufficient practical examples both in the classroom and from research that is going on in the department to give students an overview of what is appropriate and possible using a range of qual methods. We also direct students towards a vast and varied array of reading which at Masters level should enable them to pursue their own individual interests too. In addition we will make clear to future cohorts how they can give feedback during the term about topics being taught. We will also ensure that all students understand that tutors are available to them for questions outside of traditional lectures and, if students desire additional input that this is available to them and should be requested.

Although we had 3 tutors on hand for group or individual consultation whenever we weren’t teaching, relatively few students took advantage of this facility. We will structure and advertise this more clearly next time.
tropEd accreditation: Accredited in Berlin/Liverpool 1998; re-accredited in Marseille, January 2004; Re-accredited in Paris, May 2008, re-accreditation in April 2013. This accreditation is valid until April 2018.
Students should be aware that the coursework conducted in this module is not to be applied to other required components, such as the thesis/dissertation.
Email Address: a.gilry@ucl.ac.uk
Date Of Record Creation: 2012-01-12 00:25:45 (W3C-DTF)
Date Of Record Release: 2012-01-12 06:38:18 (W3C-DTF)
Date Record Checked: 2017-09-12 (W3C-DTF)
Date Last Modified: 2017-10-10 16:06:59 (W3C-DTF)

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