School of Population Health

Qualitative Research Methods (PHCM9120)

image - Qualitative Research Methods


Introduces a range of qualitative research methods and techniques, including participant observation, in-depth interviews and focus groups and their application to public health and health promotion. The course further aims to provide students with introductory skills for developing, conducting, documenting and analysing interviews as a method and understanding how people interpret health and illness and the contexts in which they occur. Recommended as an introduction to this approach for students including those wishing to undertake research projects using qualitative methods.

Credit points

This course is an elective course for the Masters of Public Health, Health Leadership and Management and Global Health programs, comprising 6 units of credit. It is open to students doing other postgraduate programs at UNSW, or studying at other institutions by arrangement. There are no pre-requisites, however, the course assumes familiarity with basic public health research and prior studies in general research and evaluation methods or epidemiology are desirable.

Mode of study

This course is offered in two modes: 1) either face-to-face classes on-campus for Internal students, and 2) fully online for Distance External students.

Course aim

The overall aim of this course is to enable you to critically evaluate the use of qualitative methods in public health research – both research which informs practitioners’ work and research in which you may be involved in planning, designing, conducting and writing up for publication.

Course Outcomes

At the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Discuss and debate the contribution and characteristics of qualitative research in public health
  • Identify criteria by which to assess qualitative studies and apply these criteria in reviewing research
  • Demonstrate an understanding of a wide range of techniques for qualitative data collection and the ethical issues involved
  • Discriminate between different methods and their application
  • Demonstrate an ability to collect, manage and undertake thematic analysis of qualitative interview data
Learning and teaching rationale

The course is taught using a variety of teaching strategies matched to desired learning outcomes. Firstly, there is an emphasis on practical skills such as data collection and analysis in the classroom, and online (for external students) and through the written assignments. This will provide you with an introduction to a range of approaches employed by qualitative researchers. The overall course is designed to develop your capacity to make informed decisions about your own study designs and execution, as well as the chance to hone your skills in the critical analysis of others’ research.


Assessment Task 1 - Rigour Quiz (formative assessment)
Weighting: NA
Length: NA

Assessment Task 2 - Paper critique
Weighting: 25%
Length: 1200 words

Assessment Task 3 - Participation: Online or in-class activities
Weighting: 25%
Length: NA

Assessment Task 4 - Interview assignment
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2500 words

Readings and resources
Learning resources for this course consist of the following (available in Moodle):
  1. Course notes and readings - available in Moodle
  2. Lecture slides - posted in Moodle
  3. Supplementary resources such as videos, podcasts - available in Moodle
  Qualitative Research Videos


NSW academics speak about Qualitative Research

This video showcases various academics at UNSW Sydney talking about how they use qualitative methodologies and approaches in their research and their advice for people wanting to learn and use qualitative research methods. The videos showcase the many applications of qualitative research across disciplines.





Sally Nathan Qualitative Research Profile

This video provides details about the qualitative research experiences and expertise of Dr Sally Nathan who convenes Qualitative Research Methods online in the School of Public Health at UNSW Sydney. Dr Nathan's varied experiences with qualitative methods and population groups provide students with a rich and grounded learning environment to begin to master qualitative research methods.





Husna Razee Qualitative Research Profile

In this video Dr Husna Razee, who convenes the Qualitative Research Methods course in the face-to-face mode, speaks about her experiences and expertise in qualitative research. She has several years of experience in undertaking qualitative research as well, mentoring higher degree research students and training postgraduate students to use qualitative research. She has used creative methods of data collection throughout her teaching and research career.