DCU Home | Our Courses | Loop | Registry | Library | Search DCU

Module Specifications..

Current Academic Year 2023 - 2024

Please note that this information is subject to change.

Module Title Qualitative Methods for Social Sciences
Module Code PR9011
School School of Law & Government
Module Co-ordinatorSemester 1: Margaret Leahy
Semester 2: Margaret Leahy
Autumn: Margaret Leahy
Module TeachersMargaret Leahy
NFQ level 9 Credit Rating 10
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None
Coursework Only

This module focuses on the rationale for, and application of, qualitative methodology to research problems in Social Science Research. It challenges students to interrogate the epistemological and ontological principles underpinning qualitative research and the implications of adopting a post-positivist world view for one's research. Popular qualitative methods, and the strengths, limitations, and challenges of each particularly when used for policy development ,are addressed. Students are encouraged to examine the applicability of the various options to their work in the context of their existing knowledge and skills and personal/professional commitments, interests and ambitions in education policy and evaluation.

Learning Outcomes

1. Evaluate one's philosophical stance/world view and the extent to which this 'fits with' the quantitative approach, in general, and the specific methodologies and strategies used in his/her research study.
2. Evaluate and explore a range of qualitative research methods (Document analysis, Discourse analysis, Ethnography, Interviews and Focus Groups, Participant Observation, Secondary Analysis, Thematic Analysis, Narrative Analysis) that are used in Social Science Research and in the development of social policy in a range of contexts.
3. Explain and craft appropriate and informed responses to key issues in qualitative inquiry (Sample size, sampling bias, Hawthorne Effect, Observation Biases, Observer-Expectancy Effect. Selection of appropriate analytical frameworks; interpretation - significance, inferences, cultural bias; trustworthiness (credibility, dependability, transferability, and confirmability).
4. Code and input qualitative data correctly and efficiently
5. Analyse, interpret and report accurately and appropriately the findings of qualitative inquiry.
6. Identify and analyse an example of the use of qualitative research in policy development in context aligned to their own professional experience.
7. Consider and reflect on ethical issues in qualitative research and the application of qualitative approaches in policy development.

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture20Active engagement in class and group-based discussion and critique of course content.
Laboratory20Sessions using NVivo (or equivalent)
Online activity40Participation in synchronous and/or asynchronous online classes. Discussion and/or critical review of relevant research recommended by the tutor(s).
Independent Study120Reading and critical review of literature relevant to the module.
Assignment Completion50Research Paper, oral presentation and defence of analysis to peer group.
Total Workload: 250

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Indicative Content
1. Identify, critique and interpret existing qualitative research studies in a potential research area - advanced literature searching including systematic reviews, meta-analysis 2. Qualitative data analysis: concepts and methods of relevance to practitioner research in Social Science Research 3. Research Ethics: concepts, requirements and tools 4. Framing and operationalising a qualitative research question 5. Study Variables: implications for data analysis 6. Develop (and critique existing) qualitative instruments 7. Qualitative design, platforms, and administration 8. Sampling 9. Use NVivo (or equivalent) for data entry, preparation and analysis 10. Use NVivo (or equivalent) for data analysis 11. Interpreting and reporting results 12. Trustworthiness (credibility, authenticity, transferability, dependability, and confirmability) 13. Development of a case study of the use of qualitative research in policy development.

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight0%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
PresentationOral Presentation and defence of analysis to peer group.20%n/a
Research PaperStudents are required to undertake an analysis of a case study of the use of qualitative research in the development of a policy or suite of policies relevant to their own professional contexts. The analysis will include 1. Title 2. Introduction 3. Literature Review focused on qualitative data and research in policy-making 4. Policy history and context 5. Overview of the application of qualitative research to this policy context 6. Analysis using an appropriate framework 7. Discussion including limitations and strengths of the approach taken and implications for future policy development in the relevant sector 8. References, Appendices80%n/a
Reassessment Requirement Type
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
This module is category 1
Indicative Reading List

  • Braun, V. & Clarke, V.: 2012, APA Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology: Research Designs., America,
  • Bryan, A.: 2016, Social research methods. Oxford university press.,
  • Brennen, B. S.: 2021, Qualitative research methods for media studies, Routledge,
  • Coffey, A., & Atkinson, P: 1996, Making sense of qualitative data: Complementary research strategies, Sage Publications, Inc.,
  • Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S.: 2011, The Sage handbook of qualitative research, Sage,
  • Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P.: 2019, Ethnography: Principles in practice, Routledge,
  • Mir, G: 2019, Case Study: participatory methods, ESRC,
  • Patton MQ: 2015, Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods: Integrating Theory and Practice., 4, Sage,
  • Wolcott, H. F.: 2008, Writing up qualitative research, Sage,
  • Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. & Saldana, J.: 2014, Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook., SAGE Publications,
Other Resources

49692, 0, Asynchronous online content,
Programme or List of Programmes
MPPMSc in Public Policy

My DCU | Loop | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement