research skills: research interview, tilburg university, 2013 & 2014

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MA course, offered in the framework of the MA in Communication and Information Sciences, Tilburg University, academic year 2013/2014

Qualitative research intervenes when one cannot investigate a research question in terms of quantity, amount, or frequency, or when one wants to investigate complex phenomena with a too high number of variables. Qualitative data are “data enhancers” (Blee and Taylor, 2002, p. 109): by adding complexity and nuances, they “boost” data to allow the researcher to see aspects of the object of research that might otherwise be neglected.

One of the main methods in qualitative research is interviewing. Interviewing indicates a set of data collection techniques whose aim is to “understand the world from the subjects’ points of view” (Kvale, 1996, p. 1). It is a particular type of conversation, one that is structured and guided by the researcher in view of obtaining certain information.

In this course, students will work individually and in small groups with the aim of familiarizing themselves with the nature, methods, and practices of qualitative research, with a focus on interviewing techniques. They learn how to plan, design, and carry out research with a qualitative design, how to run a variety of interviews, how to conduct participant observation in order to obtain contextual information to situate the interview data, and how to analyze interview data. This is achieved via:

  • hands-on in-class exercises, mostly in group
  • hands-on assignments.

Students are expected to read the assigned material prior to class. The reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course, and will include book chapters from the volumes listed in the study guide, and beyond.

Course objectives and learning outcomes

  • Familiarize with the main approaches in qualitative research (for example, grounded theory, ethnographic research)
  • Design a qualitative research, with a focus on writing research questions
  • Transition from qualitative research questions to the interview guide
  • Plan, design and, carry out semi-structured interviews, including focus groups, life story interviews, and online asynchronous interviews
  • Plan, design and carry out qualitative surveys
  • Plan, design and carry out field observation
  • Analyze qualitative data, and interview data in particular