SOC 387L • QUALITATIVE METHS FOR SOCL SCI
9:00 AM-12:00 PM
This graduate class is my SOC offering in Fall 2008 and also forms part of the extended core curriculum in the LBJ School of Public Affairs. It is designed to complement existing courses on methods and quantitative techniques of data collection and analysis that already exist at the LBJ School, as well as in the Sociology and Geography departments. Prospective students should note that the large class size requires that the class be taught in a lecture rather than seminar format although much of the work will be conducted in small groups. (This worked quite well in Fall 2007 when there were 35 students.) Specifically, the aim of this course is to develop awareness and expertise in a range of more qualitative survey research methods, approaches and designs, ranging from participant observational techniques through semi-structured interviewing to more formal questionnaire and census-type surveys. The course will also address issues of research project design and targeting, sampling, ethnography, case studies, ethics, data and informational handling arising from the different techniques, as well as the preparation of final reports based upon social survey analysis. Participants will undertake IRB training. Among the specific methods in which training will be offered are: Observational Techniques (participant, "mass", focus groups, social monitoring, etc.); Case Studies; Content Analysis; Focus Groups; "Elite"/Key Informant Interviewing; Questionnaire Design and Application; Qualitative Data Analysis and Presentation/Writing, Behavioral/Psychological testing (TAT Tests, Repertory Grids etc.). It is designed for two principal constituencies: first, Ph.D. students who are (usually) in the earlier stages of their doctoral programs; and second, Masters students, especially those embarking upon their PR and theses. Each class will require students to work in small groups developing a real research design on a topic that will be used throughout the semester, and which will apply each of the techniques in turn. Thus, a primary element of the course is to develop "hands-on" experience in adapting a range of qualitative research techniques to that group's research design. The research question identified usually will be a project for which no definitive outcome is expected, other than that of developing the training exercises itself. Most classes will involve a mixture of formal lecture around pre-circulated notes that are designed to foster class discussion, followed by in-group preparation to apply one or other of the various techniques. Thus, there will be a substantial practical component to this course outside of class hours as each group develops and applies each technique as part of their own mini-research design agenda. Please note that the 9:00-12:00 time slot has been selected deliberately in order to allow participants to occasionally continue their group work through the lunch period, so to the extent possible, please allow for that flexibility as you prepare your Fall schedules. All students will need to log onto the Blackboard, since this will be the principal mechanism for information dissemination, and group liaison.