Spring 2024 - CMNS 202 D100

Design and Method in Qualitative Communication Research (4)

Class Number: 1076

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Wed, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Nine CMNS units with a minimum grade of C-.



An introduction to interpretive approaches in communication inquiry. Topics include ethics, paradigms, conceptualizing the research process, documentary research, historical methods, discourse or textual analysis, ethnographic research, and performative research. Students with credit for CMNS 262 may not take CMNS 202 for further credit.


Inquiry starts with the simply worded, yet complex question, “Why are things the way they are?”

This course introduces students to basic philosophical issues raised by qualitative methodology, including the social production of knowledge, and the discursive constitution of the world.  Qualitative methodology questions the very nature of what we accept as “factual evidence” and “truth”.  Rather than assuming that we can develop tools that transparently record the world as-it-is, qualitative methodology starts with the premise that everything is interpreted, and that every interpretation is shaped by particular interests and understandings.  In particular, qualitative methodology raises difficult questions about the relationship of knowledge to power.

This course will familiarize students with a number of qualitative methods that address issues of power, including: field research, documentary research, and textual analysis. Students, rather than carrying out extensive library research, will be required to conduct research assignments; and will be asked to think carefully about how they encounter the world around them.


Learning objectives:

  1. Understand the relationship of knowledge to power.
  2. Understand your own role as a researcher.
  3. Differentiate between qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
  4. Understand the practice of, and the use for, textual analysis in communication research.
  5. Understand the ethics and politics of doing research.
  6. Critically examine what appears as ‘common sense’ and ‘natural’ in everyday life.
  7. Basic applications of qualitative methods and key considerations when choosing to work with them.


  • Tutorial Participation and Attendance 10%
  • Weekly Lecture Notes Submission 10%
  • Lab Exercises -- 4 x 5% 20%
  • Assignment #1: Auto-Ethnography 20%
  • Assignment #2: Observation & Interview 20%
  • Assignment #3: Discourse Analysis 20%


The school expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades. In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline.  [Note: as of May 1, 2009, the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02), and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies.]



All readings will be made available on Canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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