Qualitative Research Methods

Academic year
2020/2021 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Qualitative Research Methods
Course code
PHD012 (AF:340739 AR:181450)
ECTS credits
Degree level
Corso di Dottorato (D.M.45)
Educational sector code
3rd Term
Course year
This course is intended for doctoral students who want to learn more about the opportunities and the challenges of qualitative research. Through the knowledge of the theory and practice of this approach students will know how theorizing can be developed and how methodological rigor of research has to be assured. The course will begin with a focus on the philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research. With this grounding, the course will then explore the core issues in qualitative research design, providing an in-depth analysis of the different qualitative research approaches, the data collection techniques, the data analysis strategies, writing and publishing qualitative research.

Learning Objectives

- to develop students’ critical understanding of philosophical underpinnings and methodological debates in qualitative research in management studies;
- to enable students to explore issues related to reflexivity, role of the researcher, access to field sites and informants, and ethics in qualitative research studies and their relationship to research design;
- to provide students the knowledge to understand and compare different approaches to qualitative research, and to develop the ability to consider their appropriateness and the criteria for judging qualitative research;
- to allow students to experiment the use of qualitative approaches and related techniques for data collection and analysis;
- to enable students to become aware of the opportunities and the challenges in writing and publishing qualitative research.
The active participation to the course will allow students to:
Knowledge and understanding: to learn the philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research; to understand the differences among the approaches (narrative, grounded theory, ethnography, case study) to conduct qualitative research; to learn the criteria judging qualitative research designs; to understand the different data collection and analysis techniques in qualitative research.

Application of knowledge and understanding: to compare the different approaches for conducting qualitative research; to create a research protocol; to conduct interview and observation; to code, analyze and interpret qualitative data.

Ability to formulate judgements: to implement a qualitative research design; to motivate the choice of a specific qualitative research approach for addressing a research question; to evaluate the use of data collection and analysis techniques.

Ability to communicate the decision making process related to the implementation of the qualitative research design adopted in the group research project

Learning skills that allow students to implement autonomously qualitative research design.

There is not specific prerequisite
The rationale for qualitative research, philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research, criteria for judging qualitative research designs, history and role of qualitative methods in management studies, introduction to different approaches to qualitative inquiry.

Comparing different approaches to qualitative research: Narrative research, Grounded theory research, Ethnographic research, Case study research, Mixed method research.
Each research approach will be described considering the main characteristics, the general procedure to conduct the research and the criteria for judging the quality of the research.

Introduction to qualitative data collection (direct and participant observations, interviews, documentations, archival data, physical artifacts). Interviewing technique: forms of qualitative interviews (structured, semi-structured and unstructured interview; structuring an interview guide; conducting semi-structured interviews: main questions, follow-up questions, probes.

Experiencing interviewing techniques: examples of interview techniques adopted in management and organizational research.

Strategies for data analysis in qualitative research: coding, categorizing and organizing qualitative data, with a specific focus on case analysis and cross-case comparison, grounded theory and theoretical coding, narrative thematic analysis. Each analytic strategy will be discussed in detail in order to provide a methodological toolkit for categorizing, displaying and interpreting qualitative data. Discussion of CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software) that can be adopted in analyzing qualitative texts.

Presenting and publishing qualitative empirical evidence: how to report qualitative research in scientific journals, where and how do you publish qualitative work, how do you convince reviewers about the quality of your work.
Mandatory readings:
Bansal, P. and Corley, K. 2012. What’s different about qualitative research? Academy of Management Journal, 55(3), 509‐513.
Bluhm, D. J., Harman, W., Lee, T. W. and Mitchell, T. R., 2011. Qualitative research in management: A decade of progress. Journal of Management Studies 48(8), 1866- 1891.
Cornelissen J.P., 2017. Preserving theoretical divergence in management research: Why the explanatory potential of qualitative research should be harnessed rather than suppressed. Journal of Management Studies 54 (3), 368-383.
Gephardt, R. 2004. Qualitative research and the Academy of Management Journal. Academy of Management Journal, 7(4), 454-462.
Graebner Melissa E. M. E., Martin J. A. and Roundy, P. T. 2012. Qualitative data: Cooking without a recipe, Strategic Organization, 10 (3), 276–284.
Sutton, R.I and Staw, B.M. 1995. What theory is not. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 371-384.
Weick, K.E., 1995. What theory is not, theorizing is. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 385-390.
Eisenhardt, K.M. 1989. Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review 14(4), 532‐550.
The editors, 2011. Ethnography in the context of management and organizational research: Its scope and methods, and why we need more of it. Journal of Management Studies 48(1).
Suddaby, R. 2006. From the editors: What grounded theory is not. Academy of Management Journal, 49, 633–42.
Rhodes C., Brown A. D. 2005. Narrative, organizations and research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 7(3), 167–188.
Sonali K. S., Corley K.G., 2006. Building better theory by bridging the quantitative–qualitative divide. Journal of Management Studies, 43(8), 1821-1835.
Gibson, C.B., 2017. Elaboration, generalization, triangulation, and interpretation: On enhancing the value of mixed method research. Organizational Research Methods, 20(2), 193-223.
Cassell C., Symon G., 2004. Essential guide to qualitative methods in organizational research. SAGE Publications Ltd, chapter 5.
Flanagan, J.C. 1954. The critical incident technique. Psychological bulletin, 51(4), 327-358.
Flick U. 2009. An introduction to qualitative research. Chapter 15.
Cassell C., Symon G., 2004. Essential guide to qualitative methods in organizational research. SAGE Publications Ltd, chapter 6.
Gioia, D. A., Corley K. G. and Hamilton, A. L., 2013. Seeking Qualitative Rigor in Inductive Research: Notes on the Gioia Methodology. Organizational Research Methods, 16(1), 15-31.
Miles, M.B., Huberman A.M., Saldaña J. 2014. Qualitative Data Analysis. A Methods Sourcebook. Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chapter 4.
Yin R.Y. 2014. Case study research. Design and methods. Sage, London, 5 edition. Chapter 5.
Pratt, M. G. 2009. For the lack of a boilerplate: Tips on writing up (and reviewing) qualitative research. Academy of Management Journal, 52(5), 856‐862.
Patriotta, G., 2017. Crafting papers for publication: Novelty and convention in academic writing. Journal of Management Studies 54(5), 747-759.
Doctoral students will be evaluated on the basis of their constructive participation in class, the assignments during the course, and final research project.

a) In class participation. The sessions will be structured on discussing the assigned readings. Students must complete all of the assigned readings before class.

b) Assignments: Before class students will complete the assignment and they will come to class ready to discuss it.

c) Research project
Students will be invited to form small groups and to develop a research project based on field work in which they are asked to design and carried out a qualitative research study applying the methods and the techniques learned during the course.
Specifically the assignment entails:
- identifying a research topic and questions that might be addressed drawing on qualitative research method;
- creating a research protocol and conducting interviews and/or observations related to the topic;
- analyzing the transcripts of the interviews and/or the field notes;
- developing a preliminary discussion of emerging insights derived from qualitative data.

The students are asked to discuss their projects through an oral presentation and the submission of written research report.
The course will adopt the following learning methods:

Background readings prior each lesson: doctoral students are expected to read the background readings in advance, reflect upon the critical issues raised, and come to class ready to discuss them.

Seminar-like sessions: doctoral students are expected to demonstrate an active participation providing comments and rising questions on the issues discussed in class.

Interaction with invited scholars: early career scholars with fresh expertise in qualitative research methods will be invited to share their experience with doctoral students and provide practical guidance on specific qualitative research methods. The lecture will be structured in a way that allows students to acquire awareness of advantages and pitfalls of each method and related techniques as well as technical skills on their use.

Experiential learning methods (simulation, role playing on specific research techniques such as interviews and observations).

Active learning:
- home assignments (individual/group)
- in-class assignments (group)
- final research project: doctoral students will undertake a practical research project in groups that will require the use of qualitative methods throughout the course.

All the course materials will be available in moodle.
written and oral

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Human capital, health, education" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 10/04/2020