Fall 2017 - 61110 - PA 397C - 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. 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.

Specifically, the aim of this course is to develop awareness and expertise in using a range of 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 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 be required to undertake 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’s students—especially those embarking upon their PRs and theses. (At the LBJ School it also forms part of the extended core curriculum in the master’s programs.) Each semester students work in small groups to develop 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 having fun developing the training exercises itself.

Requirements and Expectations

Final Assessment will be assigned thus: 30 percent for the Final (Group) Report; 30 percent for an unseen essay exam (three hours); and 40 percent for class participation and performance (which will include the book report and an element of peer group assessment).


Either Babbie or Berg  — see below (both are expensive; used editions are cheaper). 

  • Earl Babbie, “The Basics of Social Research” — Get the latest edition (now in paperback), Wadsworth.  Alternatively a used edition will serve you well. 
  • Bruce L. Berg 2009 (Seventh Edition) “Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences.” Allyn and Bacon.  
SRH 3.124