spring 2017
HEL-8025 Qualitative Methods in Health Research - 3 ECTS

Last changed 22.04.2017

Application deadline

External applicants: Application deadline is December 1st. Application code 9303 in Søknadsweb.

If you are granted admission to the course you have to register for class and exam in Studentweb by February 1st.

PhD students and students at the Medical Student Research Program at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway go directly to Studentweb to register for class and exam.

Type of course

PhD course. This course is available as a singular course.

Admission requirements

PhD students and masters students at a Medical Student Research Program may be admitted. Valid documentation is a statement from your institution that you are a registered PhD student or master student at a Medical Student Research Program. PhD students are exempt from semester fee.

Participation requires admission to a PhD program or a Medical Student Research Program at UiT or another Norwegian university.

For more information regarding PhD courses at the Faculty of Health Sciences go to: http://uit.no/helsefak/forskning/phd/emner

It is recommended that PhD students have followed HEL-8010 Research Ethics and Theory of Science before this course is taken.

Course overlap

Du vil få en reduksjon i antall studiepoeng (som oppgitt under), dersom du avlegger eksamen i dette emnet og har bestått følgende emne(r) fra før av:

HEL-8011 Qualitative method 3 stp
HEL-8015 Qualitative Research Skills Development 2 stp
HEL-8016 Challenges and Opportunities for Qualitative Methods in Clinical Research on Mental Health 2 stp

Course content

Qualitative research methods are used increasingly in medical research and health research overall. The methods primarily are applied in studies of the implementation and organization of health services, collaboration between patients and health personnel, and in studies of individuals' perceptions of health and illness. This course will give the participants useful knowledge on qualitative research designs, as well as provide a necessary background to understand qualitative research papers. Together with other methodological training, it will give a broad competence in assessing health research fields from different angles, a competence that is central to a research education in health sciences.

To choose qualitative methods requires a reflective assessment of the consistency between theory of science, objective and design. Whatever objective one wishes to pursue it has bearings on the research design, and coherence and consistency between theories of science and the justification of method and analytic strategies is necessary. Other dimensions such as validity, ethics and quality criteria are also part of the research process and must be seen in connection with the basic choice of theory of science.

To be able to ensure that one's own and others' research has "methodological consistency", knowledge and understanding of the coherence between the basic elements in different qualitative research designs is therefore necessary. Choosing qualitative methods in research requires us to answer questions about why the method(s) is relevant for the chosen research problem and its theoretical scientific position.

This course introduces the most commonly used qualitative methods (participant observation, qualitative methods, focus group discussions) with a special focus on the consistency between research problems, method and methodology, on what basic assumptions shape the methods and what possibilities and limitations the methods present. The course will demonstrate possible connections to particular methodologies where the consistency between research problem, methodology, method and empirical data will be shown.

Supervised exercises and group discussions will be the pedagogical method that gives the course participants relevant experience of methods. Special emphasis will be on making reflective choices of method based on particular research problems, as well as to give a basic understanding of how a method is implemented ethically sound and according to acknowledged quality criteria.  

Recommended prerequisites

HEL-8010 Research Ethics and Theory of Science

Objectives of the course

The students will understand the distinctiveness and the prerequisites for the use of qualitative methods to the extent that they are able to asses qualitative research designs and plan a qualitative study in health research.


By the end of this course, the candidate has knowledge that enables him/her to

  • Describe and assess theoretical and methodological approaches that qualitative research designs build on.
  • Assess the suitability and conditions for the application of different qualitative research methods (interview, focus group discussions, participant observation) as well as their prerequisites and limitations.
  • Assess the consistency between research problem, methodology and method in a research design.
  • Describe and assess the strengths of qualitative methods and their contribution to health research.


By the end of this course, the candidate has skills that enables him/her to

  • Apply central research principles for planning individual interviews, focus group discussions and participant observation.
  • Formulate relevant research problems for qualitative research, and give an account of principles for sampling, data collection and analysis.
  • Explain basic consistency between qualitative methods and methodological research designs.
  • Assess published qualitative research papers based on quality criteria such as relevance, ethics, trustworthiness and transferability.

General competence

By the end of this course, the candidate is expected to be able to

  • Apply knowledge of different qualitative methods and research designs to plan a qualitative research study with consistency between research problem, methodology and methods.
  • Assess a qualitative research paper based on acknowledged quality criteria.
  • Assess and discuss ethical issues relevant to the use of qualitative methods.
  • Participate in debates on research and research findings based on qualitative methods.

Language of instruction and examination

The course will be taught in English, if any participants do not understand Norwegian.

Teaching methods

The course consists of three full teaching days and combines introductory lectures with exercises/examples for group work or plenary discussions. A high degree of participant involvement and activity is expected.


Examination and assessment
Written exam, 15 multiple choice questions and 3 essay questions. Duration 4 hours.

Assessment: passed/not passed.

In case of an evaluation "not passed", the student may take a re-sit exam at the next ordinary exam.

Recommended reading/syllabus

General literature on qualitative research, design and method:

Creswell, J. W.: Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 2007:

Chapter 1. Introduction (pp. 1-14)

Chapter 2. Philosophical Assumptions and Interpretive Frameworks (pp 15-41)

Chapter 3. Designing a qualitative study (pp. 42-56)

Chapter 4. Five qualitative approaches to inquiry (pp. 69-110)

Chapter 6. Introducing and Focusing the Study (pp 129-144)


Fieldwork and participant observation:

Wolcott, Harry F: Ethnography. A way of Seeing. AltaMira Press 2008 (pp 43-68)

Spradley, James P: Participant Observation. Wadsworth 1980 (pp 26-62).

Hammersley, M. & Atkinson, P.: Ethnography. Principles in practice. Routledge 2007: Chapter 4: Field relations (pp. 63-96).



Kvale Steinar & Brinkmann, Svend: InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. SAGE 2015. (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 17)

Patton, Michael Quinn: Qualitative research and Evaluation Methods. Sage Publications 2002 (pp 230-257).


Focus groups:

Morgan, D. L. & Krueger, R. A.: When to use focus groups and why. In: D. L. Morgan (ed.), Successful focus groups. Advancing the State of the Art. Newbury Park: SAGE 1993, (pp.3-20).

Belzile, J. A. & Öberg, G.: Where to begin? Grappling with how to use participant interaction in focus group design. Qualitative Research 12(4):459-472, 2012.

Larun L, & Malterud K.: Finding the right balance of physical activity. A focus group study about experiences among patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Patient Educ Couns 83(2):222-6. 2011.


Validity, quality and ethics:

Rolfe, G.: Validity, trustworthiness and rigour: quality and the idea of qualitative research. Journal of Advanced Nursing 53 (3):304-310, 2004.

Malterud, K: Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines. Lancet 11; 358 (9280): 483-8, 2001.

Tong, A., Sainsbury P., & Craig, J.: Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ): a 32-item checklist for interviews and focus groups. Int J Qual Health Care. 19(6): 349-57. 2007.

Kvale, Steinar & Brinkmann, Svend: InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. SAGE 2015. (Chapters 4 and 15).

  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 3
  • Course code: HEL-8025
  • Tilleggsinformasjon
  • PhD students at UiT
  • External applicants
  • Course information