DRE 1010 Doing qualitative research: Perspectives, traditions and craft

DRE 1010 Doing qualitative research: Perspectives, traditions and craft

Course code: 
DRE 1010
Leadership and Organizational Behaviour
Course coordinator: 
Arne Carlsen
Course name in Norwegian: 
Doing qualitative research: Perspectives, traditions and craft
Product category: 
PhD Leadership and Organisation Courses
2023 Spring
Active status: 
To be discontinued
Level of study: 
Discontinued term: 
2020 Autumn
Teaching language: 
Course type: 
One semester

Qualitative studies incorporate a wide umbrella of approaches, from ethnography, action research, discourse analysis and process studies to more traditional case studies that may blend elements from many traditions. Typically, qualitative research will  focus on phenomena and processes that are subjected to repeated iteration between data collection, analysis and theory development, often involving thick description. Under scrutiny are typically processes and events in organizations (or parts of them), linked to all aspects of organizational behavior, such as leadership, innovation, learning, knowing, relationships, decision making or motivation.

The course provides an overview over types of qualitative studies (use of written sources, interviews, field work), how to document, interpret, analyse and explain processes in the field using different types of data. Data gathering can be viewed as implementation of research strategy, where the theoretical focus, sampling of the processes under scrutiny, categories for description and analysis are closely connected.

The course emphasizes the relationship between formulation of research problem, design, data gathering and analysis. In addition to lectures and discussion, the participants will present and get feed back on how to apply qualitative methods in their own projects related to planned or ongoing data gathering or analysis.

Inspired by recent advances in "social science fiction" and to ensure availability of rich data, all students will be challenged to pick one or more scenes from a movie or tv-series as comparative data to sample and analyze in their term paper.

The course is designed to cater to students at many levels of preunderstanding and is highly participative. The format is five intensive days, including one day for a term paper workshop where all students present and get feedback on their work - plus one shorter session for summary and evaluation.

Learning outcomes - Knowledge

This course aims to provide participants with an updated understanding of qualitative research in two distinct ways. First, some parts of the course has an introductory nature in the sense of providing an overview of perspectives and traditions of qualitative inquiry at large, including recent points of debate and controversy with regards to analysis, write up and field positioning. Second, other parts of the course will be more attuned to qualitative research as a craft that is learned by doing and studying exemplars of prior research.

Learning outcomes - Skills

The course has a practical aim in the sense of acknowledging the qualitative research is first of all a craft that is acquired, or not, by doing and by reflecting on experiences in the field.  All students will be challenged to get beyond merely getting an overview of approaches and focus on one particular aspect of qualitative research that is critical to their projects. For this point of focus is then as well, using practical procedures and tools for collecting and analyzing data will be key. Another main feature is the emphasis of exemplars of qualitative research, including stories from the underlying research process.

  • identify appropriate design for a qualitative study
  • apply various means of data collection and analysis, in particular when seeing both as a learned and embodied craft rather than generalized and isolated techniques
  • reflect upon practical challenges with conducting a qualitative study
  • get a first taste of what it might mean to respond well to reviews
General Competence

After completing the course, the students should have developed the ability to critically reflect upon possibilities and limitations with different ways of doing qualitative research as well as having gained experience with a subset of tools and approaches as relevant to their particular projects.

The course will also discuss ethical aspects involved in all phases of doing qualitative research

Course content

The course takes place over 5 intensive days plus a two-hour summary session and individual feedback (36 teaching hours). See detailed schedule below under "teaching activities".

In addition to lectures and discussion, the participants will present and receive feedback on how to apply qualitative methods in their own projects. The exam will be a 15 page term paper that builds from data that the students have sampled and analyzed themselves.

A compendium is available on the net.

An additional reading list for each session will be made available. Articles on google scholar.

Teaching and learning activities

Day 1: Perspectives, traditions and research designs (6 hrs)

  • Short presentation of participants and their projects.
  • Overview of major qualitative research traditions, including ethnography, process studies, critical management studies, action research and appreciative inquiry, case studies and social science fiction.
  • Formulation of research problem and alternative research designs and related strategies, including single cases versus comparative cases and types of data. 
  • The research journey at large with examples of major challenges.
  • Description, interpretation, explanation - using and generating theory.

Day 2: Relationships and positioning in the field, data gathering (6 hrs)

  • Preparing a study, getting access and establishing relationships in the field, relational reflexivity.
  • What are major types of data, their strength and weaknesses, and how to combine them (data triangulation)?
  • nterviewing – strategies for relating to and learning from the other
  • Observations, with minor attention to shadowing and diary research
  • Use of archival sources, with minor attention to text analysis
  • Early analysis, looking for preliminary patterns and adjusting research plans.  

Day 3: Data analysis and write up (6 hrs)

  • Grounded theory and current controversies
  • Comparisons within and across cases and examples of analytical tables
  • Discovery oriented research, including live coding
  • What is thick description?
  • Narrative thematic analysis and building process models
  • Crafting a theorized storyline, writing persuasively and differently

Day 4: Term paper workshop (6 hrs)

This session is organized as a roundtable discussion where participant take turns in briefly talking from handouts of drafts of their work (no PPT!) and getting feedback from both other students and faculty.

Day 5: Navigating the publication process (6 hrs)

  • Ambition levels: Why try to publish in top journal? Which ones are fitting for you?
  • Getting started: The conference scene, portfolios of publications
  • Building a network of collaborators
  • Handling challenging reviews
  • Coping with defeat and trying anew

Day 6: Summary and evaluation: What did we learn? (2 hrs)


Software tools
No specified computer-based tools are required.
Additional information



Enrollment in a PhD Programme is a general requirement for participation in PhD courses at BI Norwegian Business School.
External candidates are kindly asked to attach confirmation of enrollment in a PhD programme when signing up for a course. Other candidates may be allowed to sit in on courses by approval of the courseleader. Sitting in on a course does not permit registration for the course, handing in exams or gaining credits for the course. Course certificates or confirmation letters will not be issued for sitting in on courses.


Deviations in teaching and exams may occur if external conditions or unforeseen events call for this.

Required prerequisite knowledge


Exam category: 
Form of assessment: 
Written submission
2 Month(s)
A paper (15 pages) should be original work, and be written specifically for this course.
Exam code: 
Grading scale: 
Examination when next scheduled course
Type of Assessment: 
Ordinary examination
Total weight: 
Student workload
Student's own work with learning resources
140 Hour(s)
Specified learning activities (including reading).
30 Hour(s)
Sum workload: 

A course of 1 ECTS credit corresponds to a workload of 26-30 hours. Therefore a course of 6 ECTS credits corresponds to a workload of at least 160 hours.