ARST-704 Qual Research Methods
Spring for 2017-2018
Studying people is difficult. In addition to the practical problems of people changing their minds and the essential ethical concerns that come with any research endeavor involving humans, often it can seem our very target of analysis is unstable. When talking about why some people are the way they are, is it most important to account for their religion? Their nationalist sentiments? Their agnatic kinship ties? The people with whom they’re in a punk rock bank? All of the above, all at once? Something, perhaps, in between? Moreover, even if we can settle on some variable which explains what we want to account for, there is little agreement as to causality in social life, particularly when we have complicated questions about the whole order of things. Yet, given all these complications, there is a deep sense in which we must understand each-other and our respective worlds. And for all that difficulty, there is a whole universe of research design advice and exemplary methods that can aid the social science researcher. This course will train students in the design and practice of human-focused research and is appropriate for students who will write theses and dissertations as well as those who will practice data collection in such fields as development, policy research, and education among others.
Simply put, this course will train students to ask and then answer questions about people.
This course will be structured in a lab format in which students will, each week, learn a new topic as well as interpret data in relation to the past week’s topic. Topics will include: designing research questions, proposal design and the logic of inquiry, ethics, decolonization, sampling, systematic observation, participant observation, ethnographic interviewing, life-history interviewing, collaborative ethnography, free-list and pile-sorts, a peak at descriptive statistics and inferential statistics, text analysis, writing up, and a note on theoretical orientations. Over the course of the semester, too, students will develop a critical sensibility for methods use and application as well as produce a research proposal, a human subjects (IRB) protocol, as well as some preliminary field-research on a topic of their choosing.
Other academic years
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