ADMS 4421: Qualitative Methods

Undergraduate Course, York University, School of Administrative Studies, 2019

Methods matter. Throughout your life, you are going to need to make all sorts of empirical claims. Your boss might ask you to figure out if a particular program is working. You might get told to evaluate whether your efforts to educate the public about emergency preparedness are actually effective. You might need to write a thesis, or term paper, or dissertation, or white paper about some real-world phenomenon. Or, you might be trying to figure out how to reduce risk to your responders during an emergency.

What do all of these things have in common? They require making empirical claims (that is, a claim based on something verifiable) about something happening in the world. To do this, you need to be an expert with methods in research and program evaluation.

There’s another problem, too: A great deal of the research and evaluation that’s currently done is methodologically questionable, in disaster and emergency management and other subjects alike. You need to be able to identify the weaknesses in these cases to know how their problems affect how confident you can be in their findings, and to know how you’d do it differently if you or your organization needed to answer the same question.

As such, the goal of this course is to prepare you to use qualitative methods effectively in three ways:

  • For academic research, such as term papers, a thesis, a dissertation, or a publication
  • For program evaluation, such as determining whether an event or program achieved its stated aims
  • For critical consumption, such as reading or using journal articles or polling results

It’s worth being honest about this up front: the material in this course is difficult. Qualitative methods often get a reputation as being ‘easy,’ but nothing could be further from the truth. There is an exceptional amount to learn, and the course moves quickly each week (we only have 12 sessions to make you a relative master at these techniques!). You need to learn this material and demonstrate your abilities quickly, as well as to continue to refine your skills during future projects. I’m committed to doing everything I can to help you succeed at this challenge, but you’ll need to be fully engaged and invested to make it work!