Fall 2016 - 60955 - PA397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2016 - 60955 - PA397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis

Qualitative Methods for Social Sciences

This graduate class 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. It is designed to provide a training that will enhance students’ capacity to undertake multi-cultural policy analysis using less positivist and quantitative approaches, and which also embody an element of reflexivity in information gathering and analysis. Depending upon the final class size, instruction will be largely through a lecture format although much of the work will be conducted in small groups working on a collaborative research design utilizing and applying different qualitative methods.  As part of a “mixed-methods” epistemology the primary aim of this course is to develop awareness and expertise in the application and analysis of a range of qualitative research methods, ranging from participant observational techniques, ethnography, content analysis, key informant (semi-structured) interviewing, focus groups, to more formal questionnaire and on-line surveys. The course will require students to design a local (UT-based) research project through which they can develop and apply each of the various methods in order address the research questions that they have identified.  The final product will be preparation of final report (30-40pp) that discusses the findings and the relative merits of each technique applied.  Participants will be undertake basic IRB training at the outset.

Among the specific methods in which training will be offered are: Observational Techniques (participant, "mass", focus groups, social monitoring, etc.); Ethnography, 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, for Ph.D. students who are (usually) in the earlier stages of their doctoral programs; and second, for Master students wishing to develop more of a  mixed-methods training to prepare them for broad policy analysis and as preparation for undertaking their own research for PR’s and theses.  (At the LBJ School it also forms part of the extended core curriculum in the masters’ programs.)  During the semester students work in small groups to develop a real research design on a research topic and 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 having fun (sic) in developing the actual training exercises.


Final Assessment will be assigned thus: 30% for the Final (Group) Report; 30% for an unseen essay exam (three hours); and 40% for class participation and performance (which will include the book synopsis panel discussion, a technique presentation, and an element of peer group assessment). 

Students will be expected to acquire either of the following texts:

  • Earl Babbie The Basics of Social Research, - Get the latest edition (now in paperback), Wadsworth.  Alternatively a used edition will serve you well.  Expensive (around $85, there are numerous copies on Amazon and elsewhere at (almost) give-away prices.
  • Bruce L. Berg 2009 (Seventh Edition) Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. Allyn and Bacon.  But it, too, is expensive -- $82.

Additional materials will be made available through CANVAS.  This course has a moderate reading requirement.  However, the group work and techniques applications does require additional work outside the classroom. 

This class is cross-listed with SOC, LAS & GRG. LBJ is the home department.

9:00AM to 12:00PM
SRH 3.124
Final Exam Date: 
Friday, Dec 9, 2016
Final Exam Location: 
SRH 3.124