Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Overview

This course is intended for graduate students planning to conduct qualitative research in a variety of different settings. The course aims to prepare students for research by:

  1. making students aware of the ways in which choices of methodology are closely linked to broader theoretical and conceptual issues;
  2. providing students with a critical understanding of the philosophical commitments and behavioral assumptions in social science research;
  3. enabling students to consider the appropriateness of different methodologies and types of evidence to test alternative hypotheses and to construct various arguments;
  4. familiarizing students with a variety of research methods, including survey research, interviewing, participant observation, case studies, comparative analysis, and the use of documentary/primary sources;
  5. showing students how to evaluate published studies in various social science fields, focusing on the logic of their argument, their methodologies, and the relationship between the evidence presented and their argument;
  6. acquainting students with the types of materials, especially documents and surveys, available in the Boston area;
  7. sensitizing students to the ethical issues in social science research; and
  8. providing assistance in the design of a dissertation research project.

The primary goal of this course is to assist students in preparing their (Masters and PhD) dissertation proposals.

Assignments and Due Dates

In addition to regular class attendance:

  1. Students are required to complete weekly assignments. These assignments are explained after each week's readings. They are due at the beginning of the appropriate seminar session. They will not be accepted after the due date. Essays are to be brief - three or four pages. I am looking for analytically sharp, well-reasoned essays, with precisely defined concepts and testable hypotheses and which demonstrate a grasp of the relationship between methodology and theory. Students should be prepared to summarize their main points in class.
  2. Students will present 15 minute oral presentations of their research proposals on Ses #10, Ses #11, and Ses #12. On the Monday prior to the oral presentations a one or two page summary of the research proposals should be distributed to all participants in this class. Students will also be expected to provide written comments (positive feedback) on the proposals of their peers.
  3. A 15-20 page dissertation research proposal is due by Ses #12.


1 Introduction: Why qualitative research?
2 Philosophy of social science
3 Causation, explanation, and mechanisms
4 Research discover and design
5 Case studies
6 Interviews and documentary evidence
7 Participant observation
8 Survey research
9 Doing fieldwork
10-12 Research proposal presentations