Seminar in Qualitative Field Methods jomc 850 Wednesday, 12: 30pm-3: 15pm, jomc 338 Professor

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Seminar in Qualitative Field Methods

JOMC 850

Wednesday, 12:30pm-3:15pm, JOMC 338
Professor: Daniel Kreiss                        Office: 377

E-mail:         Hours: Wednesdays, 11:30am-12:30pm

Phone:  415.238.6924                         and by appointment
Course Goals

  This course provides students with an in-depth introduction to the theory and practice of qualitative communication research, with an emphasis on field methods.  The class has five objectives: 1) to provide students with a rich introduction to the epistemology, theory, and ethics of qualitative research; 2) to teach students how to formulate research interests and plan for fieldwork; 3) to help students acquire skills in field observation, interviewing, and interpretative analysis; 4) to provide students with the opportunity to deeply engage with books that are among the strongest in this tradition, and many that originated as dissertation projects; and, 5) to provide students with a space to workshop in-progress qualitative research projects, from conceptualization to execution.

The course is designed both for students who plan on utilizing qualitative methods in their work and those who are just seeking a deeper understanding of this approach to research.  Students who are planning on utilizing qualitative methods in their work are encouraged to use this course as an opportunity to further their thesis, dissertation, or other research projects.  Students who work primarily in other research traditions are encouraged to consider how qualitative methods can complement their research.

The School of Media and Journalism’s accrediting body outlines a number of values you should be aware of and competencies you should be able to demonstrate by the time you graduate from our program. Learn more about them here: Students taking this course will be able to think critically, creatively, and independently, learn how to conduct research and evaluate information, write correctly and clearly, and critically evaluate their own work and that of others.

There are ten required books for this class (many available online through UNC libraries), in addition to book and journal readings that will be available on Sakai.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006 (2nd edition). (Available on Sakai.)
Brooke Erin Duffy, Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2013. (available online through UNC Libraries)
Mitchell Duneier, Sidewalk. New York: Macmillan, 1999.
Robert M. Emerson. Contemporary Field Research: Perspectives and Formulations (2nd Edition).  Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2001.
Kristin Luker, Salsa Dancing in the Social Sciences. New York, Vintage Books, 2008.
Alice Goffman, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Alice Marwick. Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in a Social Media Age. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.
Laura Beth Nielsen, License to Harass: Law, Hierarchy, and Offensive Public Speech. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009. (available online through UNC Libraries)
Mario Small, Unanticipated Gains: Origins of Network Inequality in Everyday Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. (available online through UNC Libraries)
Robert Weiss, Learning from Strangers: The Art and Science of Interviewing.  New York: Free Press, 1995.
Graduate grades are H, P, L, F.  I determine your grade by active participation in class, the quality of your assignments, and your work in relation to others.
The following is a general description of graduate grades:

        • H means a truly outstanding performance in the class and on assignments.

        • P is a solid performance overall in the class and on assignments.

        • L is a performance in the class and on assignments that is below the acceptable level for graduate students. It means the student does not understand the course material very well, does not have a grasp of what is required in this area at the graduate level, is not participating in the class, is not handing in assignments on time, or is not participating in research basics or in-class exercises.

        • F is failing.
Grading Percentages
Participation: 20%
Assignments: 30%
Final Paper: 50%
Course Requirements

This course is organized as a seminar, and as such it is premised on active discussion.  You are expected to come to class having completed the readings and ready to discuss them.  Critical interpretations of the literature encountered in the course are particularly valued.

Sakai Discussion

You are responsible for posting a long-form discussion comment (about 500 words) each week about the readings on the course Sakai forum.  These comments should be reasoned and developed starting points for group discussion, and they should end with the posing of at least one question that we will take up in class.  You are responsible for reading the comments of your peers in advance of class.


Opening” a Text for Class Discussion: Due Date TBA

At some point in the course you will “open” a text for class discussion. This entails a formal presentation that 1) summarizes the key arguments of the text, 2) presents and assesses the methodological approach(es) of the author, 3) and commences and facilitates class discussion.  Your presentation should focus on the relationship between theory, method, and evidence.
Research Assignments

There are a number of assignments throughout the course designed to give you hands-on research experience.  You are expected to come to class having completed these assignments or ready to complete them in class.

Term Paper

In the hope that this class will further your research, you can pursue one of three options for your class paper.

Option 1:  Research Proposal

The proposal will be a dissertation, grant, or IRB proposal detailing questions relating to a research topic, presenting an in-depth literature review, and proposing a viable empirical strategy for carrying out the study.

Option 2: Research Project

Students pursuing this option will conduct original qualitative research during the course of the semester and write a paper based on it.  The goal is that this could potentially become a journal article, a professional project, or even a chapter of a thesis or dissertation.  You may choose any methodological approach discussed in class.  Your paper must specify the method you used and defend your approach.  Students pursuing this option must also complete the Collaborative IRB Certification training online (if you have not already) at:  If you planning on carrying this work outside of class, you should also complete an IRB proposal (I am happy to guide you in this).

Option 3: Your Choice

I am open to other approaches to the final paper given the diversity of student interest in the class.  If you want to pursue a different project, submit your plan in writing.  This option is particularly appropriate for students who primarily work with other methods and want to complement their ongoing work, or late stage graduate students who already have projects under way and would like to link the content of this course to their current research.

For all three options, you will present your preliminary work midway through the semester and deliver a 15-minute presentation of your final paper to the class during the scheduled final exam period.
Special Accommodations:

If you require special accommodations to attend or participate in this course, please let the instructor know as soon as possible. If you need information about disabilities visit the Accessibility Services website at

Honor Code:

I expect that each student will conduct himself or herself within the guidelines of the University honor system ( All academic work should be done with the high levels of honesty and integrity that this University demands. You are expected to produce your own work in this class. If you have any questions about your responsibility or your instructor’s responsibility as a faculty member under the Honor Code, please see the course instructor or Senior Associate Dean Charlie Tuggle, or you may speak with a representative of the Student Attorney Office or the Office of the Dean of Students.

Seeking Help:

If you need individual assistance, it’s your responsibility to meet with the instructor. If you are serious about wanting to improve your performance in the course, the time to seek help is as soon as you are aware of the problem – whether the problem is difficulty with course material, a disability, or an illness.


The University’s policy on Prohibiting Harassment and Discrimination is outlined in the 2011-2012 Undergraduate Bulletin UNC is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our community and does not discriminate in offering access to its educational programs and activities on the basis of age, gender, race, color, national origin, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Course Schedule
Session One: January 13th
Course Overview
Paul Edwards, “How to Read a Book v4.0.”

Available online at:

Session Two: January 20th
Mitchell Duneier, Sidewalk
Session Three: January 27th
Introduction to Qualitative Research
Becker, “The Epistemology of Qualitative Research,” in Emerson, 317-330
Emerson, Introduction and Part 1 (pp. 1-54)
Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln.  (2003). “Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research.” In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry (2nd Ed.) (pp. 1 - 45). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.  Available online at:
Luker, 1-50
Mario Small. (2008). “Lost in Translation: How to Not Make Qualitative Research More Scientific.” Available online at:
Session Four: February 3rd
Theory and Qualitative Research
Rodney Benson, “From Heterogeneity to Differentiation: Searching for a Good Explanation in a New Descriptivist Era.” (Pre-proof version be available via emailed file).
Glen A. Bowen. (2006). “Grounded Theory and Sensitized Concepts.” International Journal of Qualitative Methods 5(3), 12-23.
Michael Burawoy. (1998). “The Extended Case Method.” Theory and Society 16(1): 4-33.
Murray Davis “That’s Interesting: Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology.” Available online at:
John Gerring, “Mere Description.” Available online at:
Kieran Healy “Fuck Nuance.” 
Isaac Reed, “Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation.” Sociological Theory.
Richard Swedberg “Theorizing in Sociology and Social Science: Turning to the Context of Discovery.” Available online at: 
Session Five: February 10th
Brooke Erin Duffy, Remake Remodel
Session Six: February 17th
Cases, Fields, and Sites
Bent Flyvbjerg, (2006).  “Five Misunderstandings about Case Study Research.” Qualitative Inquiry 12(2), 219-245.
Alexander N. George and Andrew Bennett. (2005). Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.  Chapter 1.
Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson. (1997). “Discipline and Practice: “The Field” as Site, Method, and Location in Anthropology.”  In Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Luker, 51-189
George E. Marcus. (1995). “Ethnography In/Of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-sited Ethnography.” Annual Review of Anthropology, 24(1), 95–117.
Charles Ragin. (1999). “The Distinctiveness of Case Oriented Research.” HSR: Health Services Research, 34(5). Available online at:
Mario Small. (2009). “How Many Cases Do I Need: On Science and the Logic of Case Selection in Field-based Research.” Ethnography 10(5), 5-38.  
Session Seven: February 24th
Planning and Conducting Fieldwork
Mario Small, Unanticipated Gains (Selected chapters to be emailed in advance)
Maxine Baca Zinn. “Insider Field Research in Minority Communities.” In Emerson, pp. 159-166.
Howard Becker. (1958). “Problems of Inference and Proof in Participant Observation.” American Sociological Review. 23(6). Available online at:
Christina Chavez. (2008). “Conceptualizing from the Inside: Advantages, Complications,

and Demands on Insider Positionality.” The Qualitative Report 13(3), 474-494. Available online at:

Robert M. Emerson and Melvin Pollner, “Constructing Participant/Observation Relations,” in Emerson, 239-259.
Robert Emerson, Rachel Fretz, and Linda Shaw. (1995). Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes.  Chicago, University of Chicago Press.  Chapters 1 and 2.  Available online at:
Brooke Harrington. (2002). “Obtrusiveness as a Strategy in Ethnographic Research.” Qualitative Sociology 25(1). Available online at:
Session Eight: March 2nd
Ethics of Fieldwork
Association of Internet Researchers. “Ethical Guide.”  Available online at:
Clifford Christians, “Ethics and Politics in Qualitative Research.”  In Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln (eds). Handbook of Qualitative Research.  Available online at:

Chih Hoong Sin. (2005). “Seeking Informed Consent: Reflections on Research Practice.”

Sociology 39, 277-294.
Paul Spicker. (2011). “Ethical Covert Research.” Sociology 45(1), 118-133.
Arlene Stein. (2010). “Sex, Truths, and Audiotape: Anonymity and the Ethics of Exposure in Public Ethnography.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 39(5), 554-568.
Session Nine: March 9th
Alice Goffman, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City
Project proposal presentations
Session Ten: March 23rd
Interpretative Methods

Bonilla Silva, Racism without Racists (Selected chapters to be emailed)

Paul du Gay, Stuart Hall, Linda James, Hugh Mackay, and Keith Negus. (1997). “Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman.” Sage Publications (in association with the Open University), 1-40.
Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretative Theory of Culture,” in Emerson, 55-75
Daniel Kreiss, Laura Meadows, and John Remensperger. “Political Performance, Boundary Spaces, and Active Spectatorship,” Journalism.
Luker, 190-197
Barbara Sharf and Marsha Vanderford, “Illness Narratives and the Social Construction of Self.” Handbook of Health Communication.  Available online at:
Session Eleven: March 30th
Laura Beth Nielsen, License to Harass: Law, Hierarchy, and Offensive Public Speech.

Session Twelve: April 6th
Margarete Sandelowski. (1994).  “The use of quotes in qualitative research.” Research in Nursing & Health 17(6): 479–482, 1994
Margarete Sandelowski.  (2002).  “Reembodying Qualitative Inquiry.”  Qualitative Health Research. 12(1): 104-115.
Marleen S. Williams, Steven R. Thomsenb, J.Kelly McCoy  (2003). “.Looking for an accurate mirror: A model for the relationship between media use and anorexia.” Eating Behaviors 4(2): 127-134
Robert Weiss.  (1995).  Learning from Strangers: The Art and Science of Interviewing.  New York: Free Press.
Sample interview questions and interviewing exercise
Session Thirteen: April 13th
Alice Marwick, Status Update
Session Fourteen: April 20th
Data and Analysis
Tehmina Basit. (2003). “Manual or Electronic?  The Role of Coding in Qualitative Data Analysis.”  Educational Research 45(2), 143-154.
Howard Becker, Blanche Geer, Everett Hughes, and Anselm Strauss. Boys in White. (Selections will be emailed in advance of class). Available on Sakai.
Luker, 198-241
Robert Emerson, Rachel Fretz, and Linda Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes.  Chapter 6.  Available online at:
In-progress project presentations
Session Fifteen: April 27th
Evaluating and Writing Up Qualitative Research
Howard Becker, “Tricks of the Trade,” in Emerson, 353-360
Michael Bloor, “Techniques of Validation in Qualitative Research: A Critical Commentary,” in Emerson, 383-396.
Kate Caelli, Lynne Ray and Judy Mill. (2003). “‘Clear as Mud': Toward Greater Clarity in Generic Qualitative Research.”  International Journal of Qualitative Research 2(2), 1-13.
Norman K. Denzin. (2009). “The Elephant in the Living Room: Or Extending the Conversation About the Politics of Evidence.” Qualitative Research 9(2), 139-160.
Mark Easterby-Smith, Karen Golden-Biddle, and Karen Locke.  (2009). “Working With Pluralism: Determining Quality in Qualitative Research.” Organizational Research Methods 11(3): 419-429.
Jack Katz,  "From How to Why: On Luminous Description and Causal Inference in Ethnography Parts One and Two".  Ethnography, 2 (4): 443-473, 2001 and Ethnography 3(1), 63-90,  2002. Available online at:
Michael Pratt. (2009). “For the Lack of a Boilerplate: Tips on Writing Up (and Reviewing) Qualitative Research.” Academy of Management Journal 52(5): 856-862.
Margarete Sandelowski and Julie Barroso. (2002). “Reading Qualitative Studies.” International Journal of Qualitative Research 1(1), 74-108.
In-progress project presentations.  And, in advance of class, share at least one qualitative research article or book that you have found in the course of your project that you think presents data effectively.
Session Sixteen:
Final Presentations - TBD

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