Introduction to Qualitative Research

This is an introductory unit for individuals with limited or no previous experience with qualitative traditions or techniques of inquiry.

Level 1 - runs over 5 days
Dr Emma Mitchell is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. She is an experienced teacher and has taught undergraduate, postgraduate, and intensive Bloc mode courses at the University of Sydney and Macquarie University. Emma has designed and convened undergraduate and specialist courses on qualitative inquiry in the social sciences and conducted qualitative research across multiple ARC and partner-funded projects. Emma's research is concentrated on social policy and the study of everyday life, with an emphasis on cultural diversity in welfare and housing.
About this course: 

In this course you will learn about all elements of the qualitative research process and how they are interrelated. We will unpack the key components of qualitative research design, including the stances and theories that underpin qualitative methodologies, as well as techniques of data collection and analysis. We pay particular attention to what’s involved in ethically employing popular methods such as interviewing and observation. The course combines lectures covering foundational issues with practical workshops that give you a chance to practice qualitative techniques first-hand.


The target audience for this course is those who would like to become more familiar with qualitative research techniques, from postgraduate university students and staff to researchers in government and private organisations.

Course syllabus: 

Day 1

  • Situating qualitative inquiry in the social sciences.
  • Designing qualitative methodologies: frames, methods, and issues.
  • The politics and ethics of qualitative research.



Day 2

  • Situating the researcher in the field: the researcher as instrument.
  • Interviewing practices: Planning and conducting in-depth interviews (forms of interview, rapport, phrasing questions, probing).
  • Group interviews (composition, structure, facilitation).



Day 3

  • Observational practices: forms of observation, what to look for, writing field notes.
  • Unobtrusive methods: access, interpretation, online data.
  • Handling data: an iterative approach, preliminary data analysis, data storage.
  • Using computer software in qualitative analysis.



Day 4

  • Data analysis: inductive logic, generating meaning.
  • Coding systems and cycles.
  • Thematic analysis.
  • Discourse analysis.



Day 5

  • Writing up: The purpose of qualitative writing.
  • Presenting data: audience and purpose/voice and style.
  • Criteria for assessing good qualitative research.
  • One-on-one consultations.
Course format: 

This course will run in a classroom. No Equipment is required


The course will wrap-up at lunchtime on Friday, allowing time for one-on-one consultations after lunch if requested.


Recommended Background: 

There are no prerequisites for this course.


Recommended Texts: 

Other reading that may be useful:

  • Creswell, J. (2016) 30 Essential Skills for the Qualitative Researcher, Sage: Thousand Oaks.
  • Tracy, S.J. (2013) Qualitative Research Methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis and communicating impact, Wiley-Blackwell: West Sussex.



Q. Do I have to have had any qualitative or quantitative research experience to do this course?

A. No, this is an introductory course and no prior knowledge is required.


Q: Will we learn the technical skills to use computer assisted qualitative analysis sofware, such as NVivo?

A: No, will we discuss the potential of computer software to aid qualitative analysis, but we will not practice the technical aspects of a particular program. ACSPRI offers the following courses: NVivo Essentials: Online or Introduction to Computer-assisted Qualitative Data Analysis using NVivo: Online

Participant feedback: 

New to Qual Research, so coming with a clean state. Leaving feeling that I am competent to commence projects to offer knowledge within a team structure. (Summer 2020)


Applied learning, individually and in group setting. Allowed sharing of ideas, encouraged group participation. Theory supported by practical exercises, include different learning studies. (Summer 2020)


Excellent practice combined with theory & awesome teacher! (Summer 2019)


Consolidated prior knowledge, allowed for discussions regarding research projects, allowed an understanding to develop beyond what had been read in texts. (Summer 2019)


We had equal balanced of lectures discussions group activity, individual activity, interactions (Spring 2018)


The course gave me great understanding of qualitative aspect of my research how to do interviews, how to do analysis. (Spring 2018)


The instructor's course notes will serve as the course text.