STV4030B – Qualitative Data in Political Science

Course content

In this course, students will learn more about how to collect qualitative data, mainly through qualitative interviews, participant observation and by collecting various types of documents. The general aim is to prepare master students to select and use such data collection strategies in their own research projects. How can we enable measurement of the concepts our research questions imply? The part on interviews highlights semi-structured interviews, and covers sampling of respondents, design of interview guides, the interview itself and transcription of interview recordings. The part on documents covers collection and documentation of text material, with a particular emphasis on collection and use of archival data. The course will also address research ethics, data protection and digital security during fieldwork. Students will be trained in assessing the reliability and validity of various data sources, including how to identify and address different types of bias in the data. Moreover, students will learn how to store and organize qualitative data. Finally, the course will provide an overview of relevant strategies for analyzing qualitative data. We encourage participants to explore different kinds of qualitative data, and think carefully about the purpose of such data in their forthcoming master projects.

Learning outcome

After having completed the course, the students have acquired the following knowledge, skills and general competencies:


Students learn:

  • how to sample sources in an appropriate manner
  • how to design and carry out interview-based and observational research to ensure validity and reliability
  • how to get access to archives
  • how to assess the reliability and validity of various data sources
  • how to tackle and discuss the various methodological challenges of formulating and asking questions
  • how to process different kinds of qualitative text data
  • how to analyze and integrate different kinds of qualitative text data
  • to address challenges of research ethics and data protection



Students will

  • enhance their repertoire of qualitative data collection methods
  • be trained in conducting interviews and participatory observation
  • be able to critically assess the purpose and role of qualitative data in research designs
  • be able to discuss challenges of measurement and operationalization in their own research projects
  • enhance their skills in qualitative analysis
  • be able to reflect on methodological and ethical challenges associated with fieldwork


General competencies

Students will

  • get more experience in applying methodological knowledge in practice
  • get training in planning key aspects of a qualitative study
  • develop their ability to read existing qualitative research publications critically


The course is reserved for students enrolled in the master programmes in Political science, Peace and conflict studies and Organisasjon, ledelse og arbeid (the public administration track).


Recommended previous knowledge

Students should attend STV4021 – Forskningsdesign i statsvitenskap or an equivalent (like PECOS4025), before attending STV4030B – Qualitative Data in Political Science


Lectures and seminars.

Seminars will clarify possible solutions to tasks discussed in individual written memos handed in advance of seminars. A workshop in the software NVivo will also be offered during the course.

Compulsory activities:

Students hand in two written memos in advance of seminars (2500-3000 words). Each memo is associated with a specific seminar in which students, on voluntarily basis, present their work and where the seminar leader explains how underlying tasks can be solved using the course literature. The two written memos serve as exam preparation and qualification tasks that must be approved before students can take the home exam.


Home exam (paper of 3000-4000 words). Students will get one week to design and discuss the data collection strategy for a self-selected topic. 

Digital examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every autumn

This course starts autumn 2023. 


Every autumn

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