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CMST 2B03 QualitativeMthds/Resrch

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Philip Savage


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 325

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23466

Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:30-3:00pm

Course Objectives:

By the end of the course you should be able to understand and evaluate the value and appropriateness of a range of research methodologies as they apply to communication inquiry, including within your own area of interest.



Like a carpenter with her or his tools:

  • You will know your own tool kit; you will know when it’s appropriate to reach in and use, say, ethnographic case studies and content analysis (or some combination of these and other research); and,
  • You will be able to look at other research “construction sites” and evaluate if the right tools were used properly.


You should also have improved:

  • Critical analysis of research – both in the academic and wider public realms (especially through media and professional reports of research);
  • Writing and oral presentation skills, particularly as they apply to research reporting techniques; and,
  • Team work abilities as they apply to the research process and the various stages of research design, data collection, analysis and reporting.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Bryman, Alan and Edward Bell (2016). Social Research Methods,  4th Canadian Edition.  Don Mills: Oxford University Press.


Required and recommended reading will be available on Avenue.


Other than the main text (price set by bookstore; used versions are widely available at a lower cost); there are no material or other fees.

Method of Assessment:








In-Lecture Quizzes:

Top 5 of 7 quiz marks



In class for 7 weeks starting January 16/17





5% Attendance/ 5% Participation









Research Journal:

Weekly On-line Journal (5%)

On-Line Learning Summary (10%)





Every Sunday            January 15 - March 26

Sunday March 26



Research Projects:

Individual Research Paper (15%)

Group Research Paper (25%)





Feb. 13/14

April 3/4





Final Exam





(As scheduled by the university)




Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Submission of Assignments: All assignments must be personally submitted at the beginning of class on the date it is due.  Do not drop off assignments in the CMST office (it will be considered late unless handed in to me in class).  If you submit an assignment late you may only do so in the next scheduled class.


Late Assignment Policy: Late assignments will be penalized 10% per late class.  Extensions will be given only for documented medical reasons, and must be discussed before due date.


Hard Copies/Back-ups: All assigned work must be submitted on paper, not mailed electronically (with exception of the on-line forum). Always maintain electronic or other back-up copies of whatever you submit.  

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:









January 9/10


Research Orientations

Research Design

Nature of Qualitative Research


Bryman & Bell, Chapters 1, 2, 9



January 16/17


Ethnography (Part 1)

Ethical Issues in Research


[Quiz #1, In-Class]

Bryman & Bell, Chapters 10 and 3



- Brody, Hugh (1981). Maps and Dreams, Indians and the British Columbia Frontier. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, [pp. xi-13]

- McMaster University Research Ethics On-line Tutorial at:


January 23/24

Ethnography (Part  2)

Writing Research


[Quiz #2, In-Class]

Bryman & Bell, Chapters 10 and 17



- Chuck Chakrapani and Ken Deal (2005). Modern Marketing Research. Toronto: Pearson.  [p. 173, Ethnography]  


January 30/31


In-depth Interviewing (1)


[Quiz #3, In-Class]

Bryman & Bell, Chapter 11, pp.197-206



Chakrapani/Deal, pp. 168-173 [In-depth Interviewing]


February 6/7


In-depth Interviewing (2)

Focus Groups (1)


[Quiz #4, In-Class]

Bryman & Bell, Chapter 11, pp. 207-22



Chakrapani/Deal, pp. 146-168 [Focus Groups]


February 13/14

Focus Groups (2)


[1st Research Paper Due]

Bryman & Bell, Chapter 11, pp. 207-22



Chakrapani/Deal, pp. 146-168 [Focus Groups]



7. Study Break February 20-24





February 27/28  

Content Analysis


Required Text: Bryman & Bell, Chapter 16



- Savage, P. and Marinelli, S. (2011) “Sticking to their Knitting:  A content analysis of gender in Canadian newspaper op-eds”. Journal of Professional Communication 1(1): 169-183, 2011.

- CAB 2004 Content Analysis of Diversity on Canadian TV   [pp. 1-17]



March 6/7






[Quiz #5, In-Class]

Required Text: Bryman & Bell, Chapter 16



- Roland Barthes (1973). Mythologies. London: Paladin. [pp. 117-149 [“Myth Today”], and pp. 69-71 [“Steak and Chips”]

- Chakrapani/Deal, p. 173 [Semiotics]



March 13/14

Conducting a Research Project


[Quiz #6, In-Class]


Required Text: Bryman & Bell, Chapter 18




March 20/21

Conversation Analysis/

Discourse Analysis



[Quiz #7, In-Class]

Required Text: Bryman & Bell, Chapter 16



- Paul Rabinow (ed.) (1984) The Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon.  [pp. 3-29; 141-167]



March 27/28

Workshop on Group Projects


[Learning Summary, On-Line by Sunday March 26]



April     3/4



[2nd Research Paper Due]



Other Course Information:



Course Description


This course introduces you to key qualitative research methods used in Communication – some taken from an anthropology tradition (e.g. ethnography) and the humanities (e.g. discourse analysis), whereas others come from a more social science perspective (e.g. content analysis) or are adopted into mainstream market research (e.g. focus groups).


The emphasis is on the value of the “tools” of research.  Which ones are useful within the context of your own critical understanding of interpersonal and mass mediated communication.  We will relate this to real world applications by hearing directly from leading communication research professionals about their work and careers (e.g. guest lectures, case studies).  In particular you will be able to do real-world research projects (e.g. BARC environmental research).


There is a secondary emphasis on applying these research tools; you will learn how to use research tools by planning and executing individual and team-based communication research mini-projects.  You will relate the qualitative tools you learn about to the quantitative tools discussed in the parallel course (Quantitative Methods in Communication Research), including other “ways of knowing” about communication phenomena, e.g. public opinion surveys.


This class will combine lectures and tutorials.  Much of the material learned in the lectures will be applied in the tutorials.  In order to do well in this course you need to attend both, as well as participate in the on-line forums.