This course is replaced by IN5000 – Qualitative Research Methods.

Course Assignments

First read the Departmental Guidelines for written assignements:

Departmental guidelines for written assignments.

All written assignments; i.e. compulsory assignments, home examinations or other papers, are expected to be a result of the student’s own efforts. Passing off someone else’s work as one’s own (plagiarism), is unethical and may lead to severe reactions from the department.

Consequently, the following rules apply:

1.      If you include someone else’s text, program code, illustrations etc., you are required to mark it off and point out where it comes from (referencing).

2.      It is acceptable to obtain clues on how to solve an assignment; however this material is intended as a basis for your own solution and should not be copied from the source.

3.      In cases of doubt, the department may request a meeting with students about their assignment.

Group Assignments

Some of the courses will have group assignments. The department expects every member of the group to be able to explain the main features of the submitted assignment. Furthermore, everyone is required to have made a fair contribution and to be able to explain their part in detail.


These guidelines are not intended to discourage cooperation; on the contrary, the department encourages students to engage in academic exchange of ideas and knowledge. Nevertheless, the guidelines for submitted assignments still apply.

If you are in doubt on what is considered acceptable cooperation, contact your group teacher or lecturer.

First Assignment - Passive Observation (5/9)

Observation in a Public Place

Go to a public setting and carry out a one-hour observation.  Choose a place that you think will be fun and interesting. Observe and record movements, interactions, sights, sounds, spatial arrangements, and anything else that strikes you.  Be an observer only -- it should be the sort of place where you can sit and take notes without bothering anyone.  Examples of this sort of place are: 

Describe as much as you can about the setting.  Jot down your observations on the spot, then write up longer versions immediately afterward.  Do not interview anyone.  If someone asks you what you are doing, tell them that it’s an assignment in a course about field research. 

You should spend at least twice as long writing up fieldnotes as you did observing, perhaps longer.  You will be surprised at the amount of detail you can record in one hour!

Your field notes should be at least 3-4 4 typed pages and should include your name; the type of setting and the date and time of your observations; why you chose this setting; a rough map and detailed description of the setting (a verbal "snapshot"); a description of what you saw; and finally, your interpretations of what you saw.  The description should be who, what, when, where -- and perhaps why, although be careful about too detailed explanations of motivations.  Conclude with a brief interpretation about at least one organizing principle of the setting. What patterns do you see? What deviations from the general order to you see? Are some people acting differently or being treated differently than others? 

The purpose of the exercise is to get you started in observing and notetaking, and to give you the experience of being a “passive” (non-participant) observer. You will also have initial experience in being a participant observer (next assignment).

Your fieldnotes should be emailed to the course lecturer by Tuesday September 5th.

Second Assigment - Interview (19/9)

Interview Skills:  Exploring Identity 

This interview exercise continues your warming up and beginning to practice your fieldwork skills. Arrange an interview with someone you know -- a friend, family member, or professional acquaintance. This should be a one-hour, intensive, non-directive interview.

The topic is identity, which the person you interview can interpret in a variety of ways, and for which you can decide how to ask the questions.  Put together a list of questions to ask.  You may or may not end up asking all of these questions.  Keep the interview as non-directive as possible and use the time to develop the interview as a special kind of conversation, letting the person's responses regarding his or her identity guide the focus. Listening and seeking to understand the person’s expression and perspective are key to such an interview. 

Do not tape record the interview; rather, use this as an opportunity to jot down key terms and phrases during the interview.  Immediately afterward, write up a fuller description. The description of the interview should include:

Your name; a pseudonym (not the real name) for the respondent and her/his gender, age, and occupation; a brief description of the setting in which the interview was conducted.  Include your pre-prepared questions, and write up the conversation descriptively. Conclude with your reflections on the interview: the interactions and dynamics between yourself and the person interviewed, your analysis of topics explored, any other observations you have.   

Third Assignment: Observation without notes (3/10)

Observation without taking notes (write up notes afterwards!) 

Carry out a second round of observations: either (1) “passive” observations as in the first assignment; (2) “participant observation” in a setting in which you are familiar (as long as you are not compromising confidentiality and privacy of others); or (3) “shadowing” someone in their routine practices for 45-1 hour (this requires permission from the person you want to follow—this is a way of “seeing the world through someone’s eyes”; by quietly following someone as he/she carries out the work as normally done).

You may choose to return to the site for your observations last week or choose new site. This time, observe without taking notes for at least 45 minutes (for an hour if you can; for absolute minimum of 30 minutes). In other words, you will write field notes from memory rather than from detailed notes taken while observing as in the first assignment.  Think about how observing without taking notes affects what you see. If you return to the same site, think about continuities and changes in what you see when re-visiting the place and interactions there. 

Include reflections on your experience as an observer and researcher. What difficulties did you encounter? What do you see as advantages and limits of such observations? How, when and where might you make use of passive or participant observations? How would you carry out such observations differently?

As for your first observations, write up your field notes, aiming for 2-4 pages, and post them by email by October 3rd.

Fourth Assignment - Second Interview (3/10)

Interview Skills:  Exploring your domain(s) of interest

This second interview exercise continues your warming up and beginning to practice your fieldwork skills. Arrange an interview with someone whose work interests you regarding the domain(s) for your masters or doctoral research – a colleague, a faculty member, a professional acquaintance. Domains can follow those for your working group such as software development, participatory design, GIS, health informatics, computer supported collaborative learning, knowledge management, or a domain area more closely related to your research-in-progress.  

Plan for a one-hour, intensive, exploratory interview, not to last less than 45 minutes nor more than an hour and a half. In contrast to the first (non-recorded) interview, arrange to audio record this interview and be sure that you have the person’s consent for audio recording.

Draft a list of four to six exploratory questions to get at understanding the person’s research and/or professional experience in a domain that interests you – you can decide how to ask the questions and the person whom you interview can interpret your question in a variety of ways. You may or may not end up asking all of your questions, and the person’s responses may lead you to ask different questions. Use the time to develop the interview as a special kind of conversation, listening and seeking to understand the person’s experience, perspective and reflections on the domain. 

Audio record this interview. (Do not video record the interview.) You will also want to jot down key terms and phrases during the interview, to note highlights and to note key words to guide you in conducting the interview. Immediately upon finishing the interview, make some notes to yourself about key words, phrases, and passages – these notes will help you focus in listening back to the interview and in summarizing it.

Listen back to the interview all the way through. Do not transcribe the interview verbatim (unless you have reasons beyond the assignment to do so!) – to transcribe an hour long interview can take 4-6 hours. Rather, create a “log” of topics to organize your notes from the interview -- identifying the flow of questions and answers but also indicating topics as they come up, highlighting important comments, key phrases and passages. You will want to transcribe selected statements as exact quotes (verbatim) – direct quotes for 3 to 5 points you feel are most important will be enough, so that you don’t spend too long on the process of listening back and annotating the recorded interview. 

The summary of the interview should include: Your name; a pseudonym (not the real name) for the respondent and his/her occupation; a brief reference to the setting in which the interview was conducted, your pre-prepared questions, and a description of the interview, its key points, 3-5 direct quotes, what you learned about the domain. Conclude with your reflections on the interview and on the use of audio recording: the interactions and dynamics between yourself and the person interviewed, your analysis of topics explored, how you experienced audio recording the interview (in contrast to your non-recorded interview), how having the interview audio recorded affected your analysis of the interview, any comments about what the interview suggests for your on-going research plans, any other observations you have..

The description should be typed, 2-4 pages and posted via email by 3/10. 

Fifth Assignment: Group Research Project

Important Dates:
First version of Project Proposals submitted by September 26th (look here: ResearchProposal.mht)

Revised version submitted by October 3rd.

Group Report submitted by November 15th. (See more detailed instructions here: ProjectReport.html)

Presentation to class (November 15th or 22nd)

Learning Goals:
The aim for this is exercise is to get experience in the various aspects of the research process:  planning and carrying out the field research, as well as analyzing it, generating an interpretation and writing up the results.

What are you supposed to do?You should discuss amongst yourselves relevant topics and research problem, which can be related to your interest areas. The topic you choose should include some “hybrid” phenomena, i.e. involving people and technologies, and it should give you an opportunity to experience the use of qualitative research methods. You should aim to make use of 3 methods. This could be interviews (individual and/or focus group interviews); observations (of work practices, meetings or other discussions, activities); video documentation for analysis or video scenarios; analysis of documents (e.g. projects or institutional documents), forms, reports; or information systems, websites, project or institutional documents.

Define a purpose statement and research question(s) for your study. Then sketch the research plans: who, what, where, how (methods). (Refer to the handout from September 6th on Research Proposals) (link: ResearchProposal.mht)

Depending on your topic and case, you may have to think about participation and privacy/confidentiality of participants. Perhaps you need to prepare a research agreement letter and 'consent' forms that the participants and researchers sign. 

A project proposal, including the above points, should be submitted by September 26th, to be discussed, revised and resubmitted by October 4th. A final report is to be submitted by November 15th, and the group will present their study in class.

Some measures to avoid “free-rider” problems will be implemented: Any problems should be communicated to the lecturer as soon as possible. During the entire period the group should maintain a log over attendance at group meetings and work task distribution within the group. This log should accompany the final report as an appendix, and if there is evidence of a group member not doing a proportionate share of the job, this person will then be asked to submit an individual report based on their own field work (i.e. not using the other group members’ work) within one week from November 15th.

(Further instructions on the content and structure of the final report, and presentation will follow).

During fieldwork:
For coordination within the group, learning from each other, and to facilitate shared analysis: adopt a shared format for documenting field notes (see example template in the end of this document) and try out the technique of analytic memos described below.

Analytic Memos:
An analytic memo will be a summary with selected excerpts and beginning analysis of your field notes. What themes do you perceive? What anomalies leap out at you?  Are there turns of phrase or vivid metaphors that are important to the people you have talked with?  Did you have certain metaphors before the field research? Have your metaphors and themes changed, and how so? What overall impressions do you have? You may also wish to ‘map’ the information you have or otherwise include graphical representation(s).

You can write one long memo with separate sections, or a series of separate memos, addressing your observations (substantive, themes, meaning, questions explored and generated), reflections on methods (your experiences, processes, interactions with people in the field site), thoughts and questions generated for research design (what you take from the field research experience towards research design, methods, and research question formulation for your masters or doctoral thesis, your ongoing research), and theoretical questions and concerns (how do you know that something is so (how is something knowable)? what is required to verify or to generalize from qualitative research findings?) . This will get you started making sense of the data you have collected, and to begin to grapple with the structuring of qualitative data.  Try to make your descriptions to be as thick as possible, with lots of details.  When in doubt, aim for the “how” questions. 

Your working group should plan a time to meet to review the collected data, discuss your individual memos and your varying analyses. You do not need to arrive at a ‘unified’ or common view – one of the goals of the group field research is to learn from your multiple perspectives as well as from diverse perspectives of people in the field site. But you do want to help each other by exploring each other’s analyses, metaphors and so on, and by challenging speculations and any points of “jumping to conclusions” – in a critical and generous spirit.

‘Analytic memo’ is a technique for in-progress analysis, which helps you to make sense of data while you are doing the research. This should generate further questions to guide the rest of your fieldwork. Writing analytically helps you to think of what evidence you need to support analysis and developing an interpretation. One of the other benefits of analytic memos is to facilitate communication from field research to e.g. colleagues, advisors, or people in the research setting. 

About the technique of analytic memos: 
Strauss, Anselm, 1987. Memos and memo writing. Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 119-129.
Strauss, Anselm, 1987. Integrative mechanisms: diagrams, memo sequences, writing. Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 184-214.

(Adapted with permission from Judith Gregory)

Field Date Record


Record created by: __________________   

Field Study site: _______________


Computer file name: (include date in name, e.g. 29300_jg.doc


Associated computer files, produced documents, graphic representations:





Summary & Highlights:






Follow up to do:







Further Questions, Issues, Ideas, to Explore:






Possible implications, Interpretations, Meanings:



Field Date & Location: _____________________


Start time: ________    End time: ________


Documentation [check all forms of observational data]


HWN: ______ Audio: ______  Video: ________


Graphics: ________     Photos: _________      Other: _____


Other people present: 


Other staff interacting with person observed:


People & activities observed:









Field notes [detailed notes]









Comments on Core Areas of Interest:







Comments, ideas, thoughts for future field research: