Theory and Method for Qualitative Researchers: An Introduction

Course Number
5100 (Social and Behavioural Health Science)
Course Instructor(s)
Janet Parsons

Course Description

This course introduces a range of qualitative research methods and theoretical perspectives with emphasis on the role that theory plays across the different stages of the research process. Students will examine the underlying theoretical assumptions of qualitative research methods and the implications that these assumptions have for framing a research problem, data collection, analysis, and dissemination strategies, including traditional and arts-based approaches. The course provides opportunities to attain practical, hands-on experience with developing research questions, data collection, and data analysis. It was designed in 2009 by Dr. Pia Kontos (DLSPH) and Dr. Barbara Gibson (Rehabilitation Sciences Institute). The course is an introductory level course and has no prerequisites; however, preference will be given to students enrolled in a thesis-based graduate program and some knowledge of social theory is beneficial toward success in the course. Permission of the instructor is required for enrollment. Audits are not generally accepted. Priority is given to students in departments/faculties that are ‘contributing members’ in CQ, and to those with optimal backgrounds and current research situations for benefiting and contributing to the course.

This course is part of the Essentials in Qualitative Research course series, an integrated graduate-level set of courses in qualitative research methodology. The course is offered collaboratively by the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute.

Course Objectives

This course aims to provide students with an introduction to the theory and method of qualitative inquiry. Students will be expected to engage in critical reflection and debate of the ideas presented. At the completion of the course students will:

  • Appreciate the scope and complexity of qualitative inquiry
  • Understand the role of theory across the research process
  • Be familiar with different paradigms and theoretical perspectives in qualitative research
  • Understand how to choose different data gathering techniques and acquire basic skills in their use
  • Understand the notion and practice of reflexivity and its role in the research process
  • Understand the various ways that rigour and quality are enhanced in qualitative research
  • Be familiar with the basics of qualitative analysis
  • Identify ethical issues related to the use of qualitative methods
  • Have an introductory understanding of how to write up qualitative research
  • Be aware of arts-based approaches to the dissemination of qualitative research findings

Methods of Assessment

 Activity/Assignment % FINAL GRADE Due Date
Class preparation and participation (including leading one class discussion of the readings assigned for that week) 10% N/A
Theoretical Application Paper (3-5 pages) 15% before drop deadline
Data Collection, Description and Analysis Paper (5 pages) 35% tbd
Critical Annotated Bibliography (8 pages) 40% tbd

Course Schedule

Paradigms & Traditions of Inquiry 1
Paradigms & Traditions of Inquiry 2
Research Design
Interviews & Focus Groups
Participant Observation
               READING WEEK NO CLASS
Analysis and Interpretation 1
Arts-based Research Methods
Analysis and Interpretation 2
Revisiting Theory: Introducing Postmodernism and Post-structuralism
Ethical Issues
Evaluating Qualitative Research

General Requirements

Permission of the instructor is required for enrollment