GPHY 240: Introduction to Qualitative Methods

GPHY 240: Introduction to Qualitative Methods

← Photo Credit: Marc Calabretta


Qualitative research seeks to understand how people perceive and interact with the world around them. Qualitative researchers are thus driven to understand particular phenomena based on “discourse, actions and documents, and how and why individuals interpret and ascribe meaning to what they say and do, and to other aspects of the world (including other people) they encounter” (TCPS2; emphasis added). This course introduces students to the nature and scope of qualitative research methods in human geography with respect to data collection and analysis, giving them theoretical and practical foundations to build upon.


Successful students will be able to explore, understand, compare, and apply a myriad of qualitative research methods for data collection and analysis that are available to human geographers.


  1. Define qualitative research;
  2.  Explore a diversity of qualitative approaches;
  3.  Experience qualitative data collection;
  4.  Identify issues with thinking quantitatively when it comes to recruitment and saturation;
  5.  Ruminate on ethical issues;
  6.  Interrogate researcher positionality and explore researcher reflexivity;
  7.  Analyze and evaluate quality in qualitative analysis; and
  8.  Transform and represent qualitative data.


To complete this course, students will demonstrate their ability to:

  1. Explain the art and science of qualitative inquiry;
  2. Articulate why qualitative methods are the best tools for many research questions;
  3. Consider and document power dynamics, relationality, temporality and space/place concerning the ethical process of research involving human participants;
  4. Actively engage with and compare a number of different qualitative methods of data collection and analysis;
  5. Analyze texts for qualitative rigour (i.e., credibility, dependability, transferability, and confirmability);
  6. Critically analyze qualitative data;
  7. Give and receive, and importantly implement, constructive criticism;
  8. Express introductory abilities in thinking and writing qualitatively.


This course is being offered in an interactive teaching-learning environment and, from a pedagogical perspective, one that is committed to offering students an experiential learning opportunity, thus there will be limited instructor-led formal lectures and slide notes. Rather, student-led discussions based on assigned readings, in-class activities, and out-of-class reading and practice will be the focus of our time together. Success in this course requires consistently good time management, given the significant participation required.


During the course and given the nature of qualitative inquiry, please be advised that students may be asked to speak about personal experiences in the presence of classmates. When this happens, students must decide to what extent they feel comfortable with sharing. Respect for each other and confidentiality regarding classroom activities is critical. Student safety and comfort are the teaching team’s primary concern.