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 ACC 211 - Qualitative Methods: Theory and Practice

Content

Qualitative research is an autonomous way of doing research that deploys a variety of methods derived from various scientific disciplines. Qualitative research is interpretive, which means that it takes the social world to be interpreted, experienced, produced (and not given) and constructed, i.e. one that is meaningful due to multiple layers of signification (Mason 2002). In qualitative research major stress is placed on the context as a source of data. Understanding complexity, detail and context thus plays an important role in analysis, explanation and argumentation.

More importantly, qualitative research involves not only a number of techniques but also requires a considerable measure of active and reflexive involvement on the part of those who undertake it. Thus qualitative researchers are also philosophers in the sense that they are informed by the notion that “all human beings … are guided by highly abstract principles”.  These principles combine beliefs about ontology (What kind of being is the human being? What is the nature of reality?), epistemology (What is the relation between the inquirer and the known?) and methodology (How do we know the world, or gain knowledge of it?). This approach to social-scientific research manifests that there can be more than one legitimate way to doing qualitative research based on different philosophical positions. Qualitative paradigms work within relativist ontologies (multiple constructed realities), interpretive epistemologies (the knower and the known interact and shape one another), and interpretive, naturalistic methods.

The course ‘ACC211 - Qualitative Methods’ relies on two interconnected approaches, one directed towards theoretical aspects of qualitative research, and the other towards practical techniques of qualitative study. Students will recognise that the separation between qualitative theory and qualitative methods is in fact an artificial one. The reason for this is that even seemingly simple issues such as collecting, analysing, and interpreting materials involves certain theoretical assumptions which are bound to influence research results. In other words, students who expect just to learn simple tricks of the trade without probing the theoretical background make – at best – mediocre qualitative researchers, as interviewers, ethnographers or historians.

Presented strategies of qualitative research will be discussed and tested through qualitative interview, collecting and analysis of visual materials, and source criticism. Interestingly, all these diverse techniques can be used to answer one and the same research question. That is to say, similar to ontological and epistemological perspectives, these techniques are not mutually exclusive. Discussion of the mentioned research strategies will involve sampling and selection in qualitative research; organizing and indexing qualitative data, and making convincing arguments on this basis (Mason 2002). 

Instructor

Dr. Elmer Veldkamp​

Track

Methods & Statistics

Prerequisites

The following course is required in order to take this course:

  • ACC 110 Methods & Statistics I

Additional info

Students need to buy a voicerecorder.

Mandatory for social science students. Interchangeable with ACC 210.