Sample Syllabi: Qualitative Methods

This course explores qualitative methods for studying communication participants, processes, texts, and technologies. These methods focus on theories of cultural understanding and social insight rather than statistical “proof” or predictive models. As we discuss methodological texts and exemplars from various disciplines and traditions, we will pay special attention to their use within communication as an interdisciplinary and multi-modal field. Therefore, methods will be examined not merely as a neutral toolkit, but techniques that have specific meanings and inflections in cultural, historical and disciplinary contexts. The goal of this class is to emerge not only with an understanding of different qualitative methods available to the communication scholar, but also of the philosophical, political, and logistical issues involved in matching choice of method to research questions.

•Thomas R. Lindlof. 2002. Qualitative communication research methods (2nd ed.)
•Course reader (Blackboard)
• MLA, APA or Chicago style guide
• Optional readings: Blackboard

All assignments will be turned in through Blackboard.
Class Research Topic: In addition to workshopping your research topics, we will also as a class develop a hypothetical research project. Each week we will return to this topic, discussing how would we approach it differently using that week’s methods.
Reading Presentations: Each student will sign up for one of the readings or groups of readings from the third week on, and lead the presentation of the reading with a brief (5-10 minute) presentation introducing the reading’s main argument(s), questions it raises, and suggesting how it is conversation with or contradiction to other readings. Connecting the reading to the class research topic is also a good idea. This will count 10% of your final grade.
Final Research Proposal: Your final paper is a research proposal. It will count 30% of your final grade, but consist of two parts:
1.Research Workshop Presentation (10 points)
2.Final Paper (20 points)
Research workshopping will begin on the third week. Time will be reserved at the end of class for individual presentations. These will be informal workshopping of your research projects. Each presentation should address:
-Big picture: What phenomena and areas interest you in general
-Site: A specific artifact, group, or other location that is an example of your big-picture interests
-Questions: About this site
-Theory/theories: Conceptual tools for understanding your site
-Methods: Possible techniques for asking these questions
-Resources, archives, tools, or databases that could be used in answering these questions
These are NOT final presentations, but an opportunity for you to talk through your questions and interests, how you would research them, and ask the class for suggestions. You are not expected to have every one of the above perfectly figured out at the time of presentation. It is not required that the research topic of your presentation be the same as your final research proposal, but it is
recommended. The final proposal should be 10-12 pages and include the following areas: Topic, Relevance, Theoretical Framework, Literature Review, Method (including data collection and analysis). We will discuss this more in detail, but the Method sections should be the focus of the proposal.
Book review: Your midterm is a review of a book-length scholarly piece of research (or comparison of two pieces of research), focusing on an analysis and critique of the methods used and not used. This should be 8-10 pages double-spaced Times 12 point font one-inch margins. This will count 25% of your final grade.
Final exam: Your final exam is an in-class set of short answer and essay questions. It will count 25% of your final grade.
Participation: Participation will count 10% of your final grade.



WEEK 1 Introduction: Qualitative Methods in Communication

WEEK 2 Theory & Hermeneutics, Empiricism & Understanding
• Lindoff, “Introduction to Qualitative Communication Studies” and “Sources of the Interpretive Paradigm,” from Qualitative Communication Research Methods
• Lorraine Datson, “Objectivity and the Escape from Perspective,” from The Science Studies Reader (Biagioli, Ed.)
• W.E.B Du Bois on double consciousness, from The Souls of Black Folk

WEEK 3 Not Numbers: Traces, Conjecture, Subjugated Knowledges
• Sandra Harding, “Introduction: Is There a Feminist Method?”
• Sarah Banet-Weiser, “Preface,” from Traces in Social Worlds
• Macarena Gómez-Barris and Herman Gray, “Traces in Social Worlds,” from Traces in Social Worlds
• Michel de Certeau, excerpts from The Practice of Everyday Life


WEEK 4 Literary Analysis: Reading Texts
• Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding”
• Robert Reid-Pharr,“Queer Sweetback,” from Once you go Black: Desire, Choice and Black Masculinity in Post-war America
• Katherine Stockton, “Bottom Values: Anal Economics in the History of Black Neighborhoods,” from Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where “Black” Meets “Queer”
• Jennifer Howard, “The Fragmentation of Literary Theory”

WEEK 5 Fieldwork & Ethnography: Observing Peoples
• Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”
• James Clifford, “On Ethnographic Authority,” from The Predicament of Culture
• John Van Maanen, “Fieldwork, Culture, and Ethnography” and “In Pursuit of Culture,” from Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography

WEEK 6 Media “Ethnography”: People Consuming Texts
• Aniko Bodroghkozy, “‘Is This What You Mean by Color TV?’: Race, Gender and Contested Meanings in NBC’s Julia”
• Purnima Mankekar, “Culture Wars,” from Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood, and Nation in Postcolonial India
• Ellen Seiter, “Qualitative Audience Research,” from Television and New Media Audiences
• Lindoff, “Observing and Learning” from Qualitative Communication Research Methods

WEEK 7 Focus Groups & Interviews: Engaging Audiences & Individuals
• Peter Lunt and Sonia Livingstone, “Rethinking the Focus Group in Media and Communications Research”
• Stewart, Shamdasani, & Rook, “Focus Group History, Theory, and Practice” from Focus Groups: Theory and Practice
• Lindoff, “Eliciting Experience: Interviews,” from Qualitative Communication Research Methods
• Arlene Dávila, “The Focus (or Fuck Us) Group: Consumers Talk Back, or Do They?,” from Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People

WEEK 8 Visual/Sound Studies: Practices of Looking/Listening, Constitution of Lookers/Listeners
• Shawn Michelle Smith, “Introduction: Photography on the Color Line,” from Photography on the Color Line: W.E.B. DuBois, Race, and Visual Culture
• Jonathan Crary, “Techniques of the Observer,” from Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century
• Michael Bull and L. Back, “Introduction,” from The Auditory Culture Reader
• Josh Kun, excerpts from Audiotopia: Music, Race and America

WEEK 9 Research Design
• Lindlof, “Design 1: Planning” and “Design II: Getting In,” from Qualitative Communication Research Methods

Week 10 Area Studies: Feminism, Critical Race Theories, Queer Theories
• W.E.B. Du Bois, from The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study
• Sarah Banet-Weiser, “Introduction,” from The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity
• Paul Gilroy, “Between the Blues and the Blues Dance: Some Soundscapes of the Black Atlantic”
• Judith Halberstam, “Introduction: Masculinity Without Men,” from Female Masculinity

WEEK 11 Historiography I: Whose History?
• Michel de Certeau, “Preface,” “Introduction: Writing and Histories,” “Making History: Problems of Method and Problems of Meaning,” and “Introduction: Questions of Method” from The Writing of History
• Carlo Ginzburg, “Preface to the English Edition” and “Preface to the Italian Edition,” from The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller
• Hayden White, excerpts from Metahistory

WEEK 12 Historiography II: Revisions
• Michel Foucault, “We ‘Other Victorians’,” from History of Sexuality v. 1, and “On the Ways of Writing History”
• Robert Darnton, “Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Saint-Séverin”
• Paul DiMaggio, “Cultural Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century Boston: The Creation of an Organizational Base for High Culture in America”

WEEK 13 Semiotics & Rhetoric: Meaning and Persuasion
• Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image”
• Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Freud, Marx”
• Lauren Berlant, “The Face of America and the State of Emergency”
• Michael Warner, “Whitman Drunk,” from Publics and Counterpublics

WEEK 14 Discourse Analysis: What Can Be Said-Thought-Known
• Michelle Lazar, “Politicizing Gender in Discourse: Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis as Political Perspective and Praxis,” from Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis: Studies in Gender, Power and Ideology
• C. Barker and D. Galasinski, “Introduction,” from Cultural Studies and Discourse Analysis: A Dialogue on Language and Identity
• Michel Foucault, “On the Archeology of the Sciences,” from Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology
• Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Nicholas Gane, “Friedrich Kittler: An Introduction”

WEEK 15 Political Economy: Humanity and Production
• Marx & Engels, “The Manifesto of the Communist Party”
• Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question”
• Max Weber, “Part I: The Problem,” from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
• Dan Schiller, “How to Think About Information,” from How to Think About Information

WEEK 16 Cultural Studies: Putting it All Together (An Impossible Task?)
• Angela McRobbie, “Stuart Hall and the Inventiveness of Cultural Studies,” “No Woman, No Cry? Judith Butler and the Politics of Post-feminist Cultural Studies,” and “‘Needs and Norms’
Bourdieu and Cultural Studies,” from The Uses of Cultural Studies


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