Spring 2021 - POL 803 G100

Qualitative Research Methods in Political Science (5)

Class Number: 4874

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 10:00 AM – 12:20 PM



A survey of the principles and techniques of qualitative research design, methods, and data collection tools needed to conduct systematic qualitative political science research.


This course is designed to build on POL 800, and has two aims:

  1. to help you become a critical consumer of qualitative research, able to evaluate the methodology of the work in your field and to offer constructive advice to your colleagues; and
  2. to give you the tools to develop a research proposal for your MA research project or thesis or your PhD dissertation. You will consider the trade-offs involved in your research design and present your proposal in a variety of formats: a conference paper proposal, a thesis methods chapter and an oral presentation.

You will be working on your own research proposal throughout all three sections of the course. We will begin by considering two of the key techniques in qualitative methods: process tracing and the coding of qualitative data, while learning about ethical requirements for research with human participants. In the second part of the course, we will focus on specific sources of qualitative data: interviews and surveys, observation (experiments and ethnography) and documents. We will tease out which types of questions each data source is suited to, how these data can be analysed and how they can be combined. We will end the semester with the presentation of your own research and peer review of your colleagues’ work.


  • Weekly participation: synchronous session and discussion boards 10%
  • Reading response; facilitating discussion boards (once) 10%
  • Conference paper proposal and ethics application 15%
  • Peer reviews of 2 draft research proposals 10%
  • Research poster and short talk 20%
  • Final research proposal and report on pilot project 35%


Course Organization

Weekly 1.5-2 hrs synchronous class (on Zoom). This will be focused on:

  1. i) workshops to practice data-gathering and analysis techniques and
  2. ii) small group discussion on your research proposals.

There will also be asynchronous discussion of the weekly readings, on Canvas discussion boards. You are expected to post at least twice a week: during the 24 hours before class, and the 24 hours after class.



Saldaña, Johnny. The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers, 3rd ed. London: SAGE Publications.

Digital copies available from the SFU Bookstore website.


Saldaña, Johnny. The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers, 3rd ed. London: SAGE Publications.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).