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Class Descriptions

Qualitative Methodologies for Socially Just Inquiry


Credits: 3
Prerequisites: SW507

Pathway Associations

Community Change
Interpersonal Practice
Mgmt & Leadership
Policy & PoliticalElective
Program EvaluationRequirement (Host)
Older Adults
Children & Families

Course Description

This course is designed as an introduction to the process of qualitative inquiry with a particular focus on the challenges of engaging in anti-oppressive, socially just, culturally sensitive, and decolonizing research activities. It will introduce students to the philosophical underpinnings of qualitative inquiry as well as expose them to basic issues in designing and implementing qualitative research projects. Students enrolled in the Evaluation and Research Pathway must select from one of two required foundational courses before completing their specialized electives in methodologies and methods. This course will meet that foundational requirement.


1. Understand how epistemological assumptions—implicit and explicit—undergird all research endeavors (EPAS 1, 3, 8)
2. Understand the relationships among epistemology, theory, methodology, and methods (EPAS 1)
3. Develop critical awareness of the competing ontological, epistemological, and methodological tensions in designing anti-oppressive research projects (EPAS 1, 2, 3, 5)
4. Distinguish between a broad range of qualitative methodologies (EPAS 9)
5. Demonstrate skills in creating soundly designed qualitative projects (EPAS 7, 9)
6. Understand the iterative nature of qualitative inquiry (EPAS 9)
7. Demonstrate the ability to collect empirical evidence ( ‘talk’/interviews, observations, and documents or artifacts) through hands-on activities (EPAS 4, 6, 8, 9)
8. Demonstrate the ability to utilize a variety of analysis techniques through hands-on activities (EPAS 9)
9. Demonstrate an ability to responsibly represent and disseminate study results through hands-on activities (EPAS 4, 6, 8, 9)
10. Demonstrate a critical ability to evaluate published qualitative studies (EPAS 4, 9)


Students will be exposed to contemporary epistemological debates (ways of knowing). They will critically engage with anti-oppressive and decolonizing research frameworks while also being exposed to an array of qualitative methodologies (ways of investigating). Examples might include some of the following: ethnography, auto-ethnography, case study, narrative analysis, critical discourse analysis, grounded theory, oral/life history, focus groups, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, participatory and community-engaged methods, photovoice, arts-based methods. Course topics include critical examination of the ontological (nature of reality), epistemological, and methodological underpinnings of qualitative approaches to inquiry; the positionality and role of the researcher; ethical and political issues unique to qualitative inquiry; challenges of representation (interpreting, sharing, and writing up results) as well as assessing the quality of published studies. Students will practice framing research questions, collecting non-numeric empirical evidence (through interviews, observation, and document or artifact acquisition), analyzing empirical evidence, and representing results. Throughout the term, special emphasis will be placed on meaning-making, situated knowledge, stand-point, and power relationships in knowledge creation and practice evaluation.

Intensive Focus on Privilege, Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice (PODS)

This course integrates PODS content and skills with a special emphasis on the identification of theories, practice and/or policies that promote social justice, illuminate injustices and are consistent with scientific and professional knowledge. Through the use of a variety of instructional methods, this course will support students developing a vision of social justice, learn to recognize and reduce mechanisms that support oppression and injustice, work toward social justice processes, apply intersectionality and intercultural frameworks and strengthen critical consciousness, self-knowledge and self-awareness to facilitate PODS learning.

This course integrates PODS content and skills by emphasizing tensions among anti-oppressive, decolonizing, and Euro-centric research approaches. Students will be encouraged to investigate their own embodied sources of knowledge and critically assess how it informs their world view. They will investigate how power and privilege are related to the research endeavor and the researcher’s positionality relative to participants and communities. Students will be encouraged to critically interrogate and deconstruct mechanism embedded in research processes that reproduce Euro-centric frameworks and will engage with skill-building activities designed to promote socially just and anti-oppressive knowledge development.

Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Education Description

Interdisciplinary education refers to explicit content that involves scholarship, evidence, and experience from one, or more social science or other disciplines as they impact and/or expand social work knowledge and skills. In addition to social work, this qualitative methods course integrates content and methodologies from these disciplines:

Sociology: Sociology is a major contributor to qualitative research methods, exploring social phenomena, interactions, and behaviors in society. Anthropology: Anthropology provides insights into the study of human cultures, societies, and behaviors through qualitative methods like ethnography and participant observation.Psychology: Qualitative research in psychology is focused on exploring human experiences, emotions, and behaviors in-depth through methods like narrative analysis and phenomenology. Communication Studies: Communication scholars use qualitative methods like discourse analysis and narrative analysis to understand how communication shapes meaning and identity. Cultural Studies: Cultural studies researchers use qualitative methods to explore cultural phenomena, media, and the production of meaning. Public Health: Public health researchers often use qualitative methods to explore health behaviors, healthcare experiences, and health disparities. Cultural Anthropology: Cultural anthropologists use ethnography and other qualitative methods to study diverse cultures and societies. Indigenous Studies: This interdisciplinary field often incorporates qualitative research methods to center the experiences and perspectives of Indigenous peoples.

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