Methodologies for the Social Sciences III: Qualitative

Periodo di svolgimento
Info sul corso
Ore del corso
Ore dei docenti responsabili
Ore di didattica integrativa

Modalità esame

Prova scritta e orale.


Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


Second Term

Start date 16th January /End date 10 February  2023


Overview of course:

 The course gives an introduction to the qualitative methods that are most commonly used in the social and political sciences. The objective is to provide an encompassing illustration of a wide range of techniques that researchers employ to gather and analyze qualitative data. Moreover, the course will put qualitative methods in the broader context of the overall research process, addressing topics like the consistency between the research puzzle and qualitative methods, the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods (i.e. triangulation), and discussing some specific qualitative methods, like process tracing, frame analysis and in depth interviews. The course will also discuss the role of the Internet and digital technologies in the process of data gathering and data analysis.

The practical details of a given methodological tool will be demonstrated with the help of examples and exercises drawn from empirical research. Exercises will include the practical construction in class of the tools of analysis (i.e. codebooks, questionnaires) necessary in order to applied the above mentioned research techniques. Assignments at home will complement the applied part of the course. 


 Course format:

The course will be divided into seven sessions of 3 hours each. Each session will begin with a presentation by the instructor, followed by a general discussion. The last part of each session will be devoted to ‘Research in practice comments’: Students are expected to prepare comments related to the topic of the session and linked to their own research projects. The aim is to use the readings to let emerge doubts, questions and comments related to the students’ research projects (not just a summary of the readings). Students might also bring very practical research dilemma about data gathering and data analysis, linked to at least one of the compulsory readings.



The assessment of the course is based on: class participation (50%);  3 assignments (50%).



Assignments will pertain to the readings for that week and, as a general rule, will ask students to provide illustrations of how they might apply the principles of research design and various methods discussed that week to their own research project. Students will be expected to work either individually or in a group in class or at home.

Assignments may consist in short problem sets with practical exercises. E.g. solve a practical methodological exercise related to your own research, for example writing the contact letter for interviewsconstruct the ‘codebook’ for your documents analysis; select and justify the sample of your  interview partners. Students will illustrate the results and discuss ideas with the rest of the class. In total 3 assignments will be given for this course, as the basis for the final assesment. The required length of each assignment is about 2-3 pages (for a total of about 6-8 pages, to be considered as the ‘final paper’ for the course). *For the students of the Corso ordinario-laurea magistrale, the written assignments can be done in Italian (and can be limited to 3000 words).


Assignment n.1: Draft 3 sample RQs (research questions).  For one of the RQs, outline a major theory or debate in the field that the CRQ speaks to and explain the importance (e.g. scientific, social, normative, policy oriented) of this question.  Why should people in the field care about the answer to this question? 

Assignment  n.2:  For one of the RQs from the first assignment, describe a theory or argument that “answers” the question. Explain how you would test the argument by outlining three hypotheses that derive from the theory/argument.  Identify one or two concepts in your theory and outline how you would empirical grasp them it.

Assignment  n.3:  (1) Draw a causal model/theoretical framework for your argument, including all the major concepts/variables and the relationships between them.  Explain it in words and describe the causal process(es) that underlie your argument.

(2) Identify your ‘units of analysis’, namely the case(s) that you will analyze in your project and why (the “why” is your justification) or criteria for case selection). 


 Textbook and other Materials:

Reader prepared by the instructor. Papers to be downloaded from SNS’s Website. In addition they are sent by mail to all the students enrolled to the course (in case of technical problems in downloading or receiving the readings before the start of the course, just write me: Students are expected to read the compulsory readings before each session.



Session 1: January 16 (10am-1pm) 

Case Studies: How to design them?



Yin, Robert K. (2003) Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Third edition, Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 3-24 (‘How to Know Whether and When to Use Case Studies as a Research Method’)

George, Alexander L. and Andrew Bennett (2004) Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 89-108 (‘Phase Two: Carrying Out the Case Studies’).



Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research A Menu of Qualitative and Quantitative Options

Jason Seawright and John Gerring (2008)


Session 2: Jan. 20 (10am-1pm)

Acting as Sherlock Holmes: Process Tracing



Venesson, Pascal, “Case studies and process tracing: theories and practices” in della Porta, D. and Keating, M., eds. Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences, a pluralist perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, 241-239.

Gerring, John (2007) Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 172-185 (‘Internal Validity: Process Tracing’) or George, Alexander L. and Andrew Bennett (2004) Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 205-232 (‘Process Tracing and Historical Explanation’).



Derek Beach and Rasmus Brun Pedersen (2013), Process-Tracing Methods Foundations and Guidelines, University of Michigan Press, Introduction


Session 3: Jan. 25 (10am-1pm)

Analysing texts and speeches: content analysis and claim –making



Caiani, M. and Graziano, P. 2016, “Varieties of Populism: Insights from the Italian Case”, in Italian Political Science Review, 46 (2), 243-267.

Trachtenberg, Marc (2006) The Craft of International History: A Guide to Method. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 140-168 (‘Working with Documents’).



Koopmans, Ruud and Paul Statham, 1999, Political Claims Analysis: Integrating Protest Event and Political Discourse Approaches, Mobilization: An International Quarterly, Volume 4, Number 2, 203 - 221


Session 4: Jan. 30 (10am-1pm)

Analysing texts and speeches: Discourse and frame analysis

(With the participation of Aida Kapetanovic)



Lindekilde, L. 2014. “Discourse and Frame Analysis: In-depth Analysis of Qualitative Data in Social Movement Studies”. In D. della Porta (ed.) Methodological Practices in Social Movement Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 195-228.

Snow, D. (2004), “Framing Processes, Ideology and Discursive Fields”, in David A. Snow, Sarah Anne Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi (eds.), The Blackwell companion to social movements, pp.380-412



Tonkiss, Fran, “Analyzing discourse”, in Clive Seale (eds.), Researching Society and Culture,

London, Sage, 1998, 245-250.

Snow, D. A. et al. 2019. “The Framing Perspective on Social Movements: Its Conceptual Roots and Architecture”. In Snow, Soule, Kriesi, and McCammon (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, Second Edition, London: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 392-410


Session 5:  Feb. 3 (10am-1pm) 

Types of Interviews: surveys, in depth, semi-structured interviews and life histories



Magnusson, E. and J. Marecek (2015) Doing Interview-Based Qualitative Research, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. CHAPTERS 5 AND 6

Della Porta, Donatella, “Life Histories Analysis of Social Movement Activists”, in M. Diani e R. Eyerman (eds.), Studying Social Movements, London, Sage, 1992, pp. 168-193.



Corbetta, P. (2003), “The Qualitative Interview”, Ch 10. in Social Research: Theory, Methods and Techniques, Sage Publications, London, pp. 264-283.

Symposium on ‘Interview Methods in Political Science in PS: Political Science and Politics 35(4), 2002, pp. 663-688. Articles by Beth Leech (‘Asking Questions: Sampling and Completing Elite Interviews’), Kenneth Goldstein (‘Getting in the Door: Sampling and Completing Elite Interviews’), Joel Aberbach and Bert Rockman (‘Conducting and Coding Elite Interviews’), Laura Woliver (‘Ethical Dilemmas in Personal Interviewing’), and Jeffrey Barry (‘Validity and Reliability Issues in Elite Interviewing’).

Weiss, Robert, Learning from Strangers, New York, Free Press, 1994, chapter 4.


Session 6: Feb. 6 (10am-1pm)

Interviews in Practice (sampling, contacting, analysing qualitative data) & class simulation


Holstein, James A. and Jaber F. Gubrium, 2002, “Active Interviewing”, in D. Wenberg (ed.), Qualitative Research Methods, Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 112-126.

Bazeley, P. (2013) Qualitative Data Analysis, London: Sage. CHAPTER 7,



Seale, Clive, “Qualitative Interviewing”, in Clive Seale (eds.), Researching Society and Culture, London, Sage, 1998, 202-216.

Deakin, H. & Wakefield, K., (2014) Skype interviewing: reflections of two PhD researchers.  Qualitative Research, 14(5), pp.603–616.


 Session 7: Feb. 10 (10am- 1pm)

(with the participation of Bathuan Eren and Irina Anguiari)

 Grounded Theory & Participatory action research




Kathy Charmaz (2006), Constructing Grounded Theory, Introduction and Conclusion, + various material distributed during the class



If you want to receive the readings of the course, contact the professor:

Obiettivi formativi

To acquire the skills to use the most important techniques and qualitative methods commonly used in the social and political science research