Effective: Late Fall 8-Week, 2018/2019

PSYC 327: *Qualitative Research Methods

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  Course Description

Understanding qualitative research and developing qualitative research skills, examining exemplars in the field, exploring the various qualitative research methodologies such as participant-observation and in-depth interviewing and the theoretical and ethical dilemmas associated with each. Data collection, writing field notes and transforming such data into written ethnographic documents are emphasized. Cross-listed as SOCI 327, ANTH 327 and PSYC 327.

Prerequisite: Junior standing

Proctored Exams: Final


As part of TruitionSM, students will receive their course materials automatically as described below.


  •  Auyero, J. and Alejandra, D. (2009). Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown (1st ed). New York: Oxford University Press.  eText
  •  Creswell, J. W. (2018). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.  eText

Bookstore Information

Visit https://www.ccis.edu/bookstore.aspx for details.

eText Information

If a course uses an eText, (see Textbook information above) the book will be available directly in Desire2Learn (D2L) and through the VitalSource eText reader the Friday before the session begins, if registered for courses prior to that date.  Students will have a VitalSource account created for them using their CougarMail email address. Upon first login to VitalSource, students may need to verify their account and update their VitalSource password.  More information about how to use the VitalSource platform, including offline access to eTexts, can be found in D2L.  Students that would like to order an optional print-on-demand copy of eligible eTexts can do so through the VitalSource bookshelf at an additional cost.  Once orders are placed, it can take approximately five to seven business days for students to receive their print-on-demand books.

Physical Course Materials Information

Students enrolled in courses that require physical materials will receive these materials automatically at the address on file with Columbia College.  Delivery date of physical materials is dependent on registration date and shipping location.  Please refer to confirmation emails sent from Ed Map for more details on shipping status.

Returns: Students who drop a course with physical course materials will be responsible for returning those items to Ed Map within 30 days of receipt of the order.  More specific information on how to do so will be included in the package received from Ed Map.  See here for Ed Map's return policy. Failure to return physical items from a dropped course will result in a charge to the student account for all unreturned items.

Note: Students who opt-out of having their books provided as part of TruitionSM are responsible for purchasing their own course materials.

  Course Overview

The goal of this interdisciplinary course is to learn how to develop a qualitative research project, whether in sociology, anthropology, or psychology. In contrast with quantitative research (mostly concerned with statistical tools), qualitative research relies on personal/human interaction. By reading multiple qualitative studies and creating an original research proposal, students will learn how to use qualitative research tools to explore social relations, cultures, and individuals.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Objectives

  • To understand the appropriate use of qualitative methodologies.
  • To distinguish between the various qualitative methods, the strengths and weaknesses of each and read exemplars of the various types of qualitative research methods.
  • To identify research dilemmas associated with qualitative methods: objectivity vs. subjectivity, researcher reflexivity and voice, studying outgroups.
  • To complete a qualitative research project.

  Measurable Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the various research methodologies qualitative researchers employ.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of each type of qualitative method.
  • Explore the dilemmas surrounding qualitative research.
  • Engage in qualitative research practices.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 900-1000 90-100%
B 800-899 80-89%
C 700-799 70-79%
D 600-699 60-69%
F 0-599 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions 240 24%
Qualitative Research Project 360 36%
Midterm Exam 200 20%
Final Exam 200 20%
Total 1000 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 1 15 Wednesday
Discussion 2 15 Sunday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3 15 Wednesday
Discussion 4 15 Sunday
Research Proposal: Research Questions and Assumptions 80
Proctor Information N/A

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 5 15 Wednesday
Discussion 6 15 Sunday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 7 15 Wednesday
Discussion 8 15 Sunday
Midterm Exam 200 Saturday

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 9 15 Wednesday
Discussion 10 15 Sunday
Qualitative Research Proposal: Literature Review 80

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 11 15 Wednesday
Discussion 12 15 Sunday

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 13 15 Wednesday
Discussion 14 15 Sunday
Research Proposal: Final Proposal 200

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 15 15 Wednesday
Discussion 16 15 Saturday
Final Exam 200
Total Points: 1000

  Assignment Overview


The weekly discussion posts will allow you to engage with the course material. Each post should be original, insightful, relevant to the question(s) being asked, well organized, and complete by its deadline (Wednesday or Sunday at midnight, with the exception of Week 8 when the last discussion will be due on Saturday). In addition to posting your own contribution to the discussion, you are expected to read the posts of your classmates and respond to at least two other student postings on each discussion for full credit. Brief posts such as ‘good post’ and rephrasing another student’s post are not acceptable and will not count toward participation. Each of the sixteen discussions will be graded out of 15 points, for a total of 240 points. 

Qualitative Research Proposal

Throughout the session, you will develop a qualitative research proposal about a place outside your home and workplace that you are particularly familiar with (a coffee shop, a gym, a bar, a club, a library, etc.). There are three steps in developing this proposal, -- the research question, the literature review, and the final proposal.

  • Research question and assumptions (80 points): In this 3-page paper, describe where your research would take place, the central research question, and the epistemological, axiological, and ethical issues associated with this research.
  • Literature review (80 points): After identifying a research topic, qualitative researchers need to collect as much information as possible about the topic. The second step is reviewing relevant research on this topic.  Your abbreviated literature review (3-page paper) will consist of an analysis of three peer-reviewed articles. It should not only discuss the contribution of these three sources to the research proposal, but should also include a critical analysis of the particular methodologies used by the authors of the selected articles.
  • Research proposal (200 points): The first two papers will provide solid ground for you to complete your qualitative research proposal. Using either a narrative or an ethnographic approach to qualitative research (the only two options proposal, out of the five approaches discussed by Creswell), write a comprehensive qualitative research proposal.  Although both narrative research and ethnography explore people’s experience with the place you selected, they do it in different ways:
  • Narrative research: you will want to explore the experience and identity of a few individuals as it relates to their use of that place.
  • Ethnography: you will want to describe and analyze the behavior, language, and general interaction of people at that place.

The proposal should include (with separate headings):

  • A research statement, which should include a short description of the place you chose, a central research question, a discussion of the main assumptions associated with the proposed research, and a statement about why this research is significant in the field of sociology, psychology, and/or anthropology. Feel free to use elements of your first essay for this section of your proposal (make sure to take my feedback and comments into account!). This section of your proposal should be about 2 pages long.
  • A literature review that not only discusses the contribution of three peer-reviewed works to your research, but also the methodological strategy(ies) used by each author. Feel free to use elements of your second essay for this section of your proposal (make sure to take my comments into account!). This section of your proposal should be about 3 pages long.
  • A comprehensive methodological section, in which you should explain, based on what you learned in this course, how you will go about answering your central research question. This section will vary depending on whether you choose to conduct a narrative or an ethnographic study. You need to describe and explain who you intend to meet and how, the interview questions you will ask, the observations you will make (when, and how) and the participant observation strategies you intend to use. In short, you need to explain how you will collect qualitative data and how you intend to analyze it. This section of your proposal should be 4 pages long.
  • An interview guide, which should list ten questions you would like to ask your informants. You should also provide an explanation of why you chose these questions and how you ordered them.. Use section 8-9 of the documentary Doing Sociological Research to build your interview guide. For example, start with general questions and proceed to more specific ones. Also, use open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’) in order to encourage interviewees to share as much information as possible. This section of your proposal should be 1 page long.


There will be a midterm and a final exam, each counting for 20% of the overall grade.  Both exams are composed of short answer and essay questions. You will have 120 minutes to take each exam.  Both exams may be found under Quizzes.  Only the final exam will be proctored.  

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.


Creswell: Chapter 1

Discussion 1

Introduce yourself. In addition to your name, provide some information about your background, your experience in sociology, anthropology, and/or psychology, and any other information that will help the instructor and the other students know you. Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

Discussion 2

Using one specific example from sections 1-4 of the documentary Doing Sociological Research, explain how sociologists can best achieve validity in their quest for understanding society. Please post your response by Sunday at 11:59pm CT.

Plagiarism Tutorial and Quiz

Read the Plagiarism Tutorial found in the Content Area; after reading the Plagiarism Tutorial, please take the Plagiarism Quiz found in the Quizzes section. Note that you will not have access to the Dropbox to submit your first writing assignment (Qualitative Research Proposal: Research question and assumptions) until you have viewed the Tutorial and taken the Plagiarism Quiz.


Creswell: Chapter 2 and 3

Auyero and Swistun: Introduction

Discussion 3

Answer the following two questions. Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

  • Based on Chapter 2 of Creswell’s textbook, explain how a researcher’s assumptions, ideas, and perceptions can affect the process of doing qualitative research.

  • Based on sections 8-13 of the documentary Doing Sociological Research, explain four key elements of a good interview.

Discussion 4

Based on the introduction of the book Flammable and Creswell’s discussion of ethics in qualitative research (Chap. 3), cite and explain two potential ethical issues in studying environmental suffering in a shantytown (a heavily populated urban informal settlement characterized by substandard housing and poor access to basic services such as clean water, roads, etc.; also called a slum). Please post your response by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT.

Research Proposal: Research Questions and Assumptions

Submit your Research Question and Assumptions via the Dropbox by 11:59 pm CT Sunday. In this 3-page paper, you will describe where your research would take place, the central research question, and the epistemological, axiological, and ethical issues associated with this research.

  • Present and describe a place you are particularly familiar with (outside your home and workplace) where you would like to closely observe human behavior and interaction (ex: a gym). Identify some characteristics of the people who frequently use this place (ex: division of space and activities by gender/age/race/ethnicity; similarity or contrast in terms of what people do; clothing patterns; etc.)
  • Identify and explain:
  • the focus of your proposed research. Your research could, for example, explore the particular use of this place by different groups of people (ex: gender distinction in a gym) or people’s motivation to come to this place.
  • one central question that will guide your research (ex: why do men and women tend to use different equipment and dress differently in a gym?)
  • Discuss the potential epistemological, axiological, and ethical issues associated with conducting this research (Creswell, Chap. 2 and 3).

Note: You will not have access to the Dropbox to submit this first paper until you have viewed the Plagiarism Tutorial and taken the Plagiarism Quiz.  

Proctor Information
Submit your proctor form to the appropriate Dropbox folder by the end of the week. Remember to “Save” the form before placing it in Dropbox. See the Content area for more information.

Creswell: Chapter 4 and Appendix B and C

Discussion 5

List five questions that would be particularly appropriate for a narrative inquiry of the life of Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant in the United States. To participate in this discussion, you first need to view Vargas on TED Talks (“Rethinking the term ‘illegal’ immigrant: Because people can’t be illegal”), available in course Content, and read about narrative studies in Creswell’s Chapter 4 and Appendix B. Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

Discussion 6

Using examples from Appendix B and C in Creswell’s textbook, cite and explain two similarities and two differences between narratives and phenomenological qualitative research. Which approach do you find most interesting, and why? Please post your response by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT.


Creswell: Chapter 5 and Appendix D, E, and F

Discussion 7

Based on the short movie What is ethnography (available in course Content), explain how you would conduct an ethnography of a religious group in the United States that you are particularly unfamiliar with. What would be your main objectives, and how would you go about studying this group? Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

Discussion 8

Answer the following two questions. Please post your response by Sunday at 11:59pm CT.

  • Using examples from Appendix D and E in Creswell’s textbook, cite and explain two similarities and two differences between a grounded theory study and an ethnography in qualitative research. Which approach do you find most interesting, and why?

  • Which approach – narrative research or ethnography – do you plan to use for your proposal? Why?

Midterm Exam

You must take your midterm exam between Tuesday and Saturday of this week. You may use your textbook. The exam will consist of short answer/essay questions. Each answer should be about one page long. You will have 120 minutes to complete the exam.   


Creswell: Chapter 7

Auyero and Swistun: Chap. 1, 2, and 3

Discussion 9

Based on sections 1-3 of the documentary, Slum Cities, (available in the course Content) explain three distinct characteristics of a slum (also called shantytown). Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

Discussion 10

List and explain the different qualitative research techniques used by Auyero and Swistun in exploring people’s perception of environmental hazard and suffering in the shantytown, Flammable. In what way(s) do you find these techniques complementary, and why? Please post your response by Sunday at 11:59pm CT.

Qualitative Research Proposal: Literature Review

Submit your Literature Review via the Dropbox by 11:59pm CT Sunday. In this 3-page essay (double-spaced, not counting the title and/or the cover page), discuss three sources pertaining to your qualitative research proposal.

Types of sources: the Columbia College Stafford library website provides all the necessary resources you will need for this paper. Your three sources need to be peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed (also called scholarly) articles are articles that have been reviewed and evaluated by academics in the field before being published. They are usually longer, denser, and offer a better quality of information and analysis. Peer-reviewed articles can be found on databases such as Academic Search Complete, available on the Columbia College Stafford Library website). On Academic Search Complete, you have the option, as part of your search, to select only peer-reviewed articles (on the left of your screen).

The goal of reviewing these sources is to broaden your understanding of your research topic and explore what methodologies authors have used to conduct similar studies. For example, if your research is on gender distinction in a gym, you might find interesting to read articles that explore gender and physical activities more generally (not necessarily in a gym).

In your essay, you need to discuss the contribution of these three sources to your research proposal: What is/are the main point(s) of these articles? How do they relate to your own research proposal? What are the particular methodologies used by the authors to answer the question(s) they ask?

  • Creswell: Chapter 8
  • Auyero and Swistun: Chap. 4
  • Geertz: “Deep play: notes on the Balinese cockfight” (available in the course Content).  
Discussion 11

Based on Chapter 8 of Creswell’s textbook, explain how data analysis and representation differ between narrative research, grounded theory, and ethnographic analyses. Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

Discussion 12

What does Clifford Geertz mean when he states that the Balinese cockfight constitutes a ‘deep’ play? Be specific in your response, using examples from the article. Please post your response by Sunday at 11:59pm CT.

Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.
  • Creswell: Chapter 9
  • Auyero and Swistun: Chap. 5 and 6
Discussion 13

Based on Chapter 5 of the book, Flammable, why are the residents of Flammable waiting, and what are they waiting for? Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

Discussion 14

What do Auyero and Swistun mean when they write that “Flammable residents’ experiences of their polluted surroundings are socially and politically determined.”? (Flammable, Chap. 6) Please post your response by Sunday at 11:59pm CT.

Research Proposal: Final Proposal

Submit your Final Proposal via the Dropbox by 11:59pm CT Sunday.   See the detailed description of the assignment in the Assignment Overview and in the course Content area.

  • Creswell: Chapter 10 and 11
  • Auyero and Swistun: Chap. 7

View sections 6-7 of the documentary, Slum Cities.

Discussion 15

Imagine that you chose the other option for your qualitative research proposal (narrative research instead of ethnography, or vice-versa). Explain how it would have changed the research and writing process. Please post your response by Wednesday at 11:59pm CT.

Discussion 16

Based on sections 6 and 7 of the documentary, Slum Cities, explain how you would use qualitative research methods to explore the informal economy of Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas (slums). Please post your response by Saturday at 11:59pm CT.

Final Exam

You must take your final exam (with an approved proctor) between Tuesday and Saturday of this week. You may not use your textbook or other notes. The exam will consist of short answer/essay questions. Each answer should be about one page long. You will have 120 minutes to complete the exam. Each Columbia College site has its own hours and methods for handling proctoring. Please be informed of their hours so that you can get your exam completed in time.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a cumulative process that begins with the first college learning opportunity. Students are responsible for knowing the Academic Integrity policy and procedures and may not use ignorance of either as an excuse for academic misconduct. Columbia College recognizes that the vast majority of students at Columbia College maintain high ethical academic standards; however, failure to abide by the prohibitions listed herein is considered academic misconduct and may result in disciplinary action, a failing grade on the assignment, and/or a grade of "F" for the course.

Additionally, all required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Columbia College is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning, communicate your concerns with the instructor. In addition to speaking with the instructor, the following resources are available to ensure an opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment that values mutual respect.

  • For students with disabilities/conditions who are experiencing barriers to learning or assessment, contact the Student Accessibility Resources office at (573) 875-7626 or sar@ccis.edu to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in the course, including accommodations.
  • For students who are experiencing conflict which is impacting their educational environment, contact the Office of Student Conduct at studentconduct@ccis.edu or (573) 875-7877.
  • For students who have concerns related to discrimination or harassment based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, please contact the Title IX Office at titleixcoordinator@ccis.edu. More information can be found at http://www.ccis.edu/policies/notice-of-non-discrimination-and-equal-opportunity.aspx

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

The following rules can be waived for extenuating circumstances beyond your control, such as a death in the family. Any such circumstances, as tragic as they might be, will need to be documented.

Dropbox assignments may be submitted up to one week late, but past the deadline 10% of the total points will be deducted for each day that the assignment is late. For example, an 80 point assignment will lose 8 points for each day that passes after the due date.

All course work and assignments must be completed by 11:59pm CT Saturday of Week 8, the last day of the session.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

Proctor Policy

Students taking courses that require proctored exams must submit their completed proctor request forms to their instructors by the end of the second week of the session. Proctors located at Columbia College campuses are automatically approved. The use of ProctorU services is also automatically approved. The instructor of each course will consider any other choice of proctor for approval or denial. Additional proctor choices the instructor will consider include: public librarians, high school or college instructors, high school or college counseling services, commanding officers, education service officers, and other proctoring services. Personal friends, family members, athletic coaches and direct supervisors are not acceptable.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Technology Solutions Center, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. If you have technical problems with the VitalSource eText reader, please contact VitalSource. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.