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HLSC404 Qualitative Research Methods in Health Sciences

Unit rationale, description and aim

Qualitative research focuses on complex real-world phenomena that results in rich, in-depth and situated understanding of that phenomena. The unit will explore a variety of qualitative research approaches. Research questions, research design and research methods for qualitative data collection and analysis will be examined with a view to developing and conducting rigorous qualitative research studies. The unit aims to increase students’ knowledge and skill in aspects of qualitative research methods appropriate to health science research.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe the position of the researcher in a selected qualitative research approach (GA1, GA2, GA3)

LO2 - Explain the qualities of a rigorous qualitative research project including ethical aspects (GA4, GA9)

LO3 - Demonstrate knowledge and skills in selected qualitative research methods of data collection, analysis, interpretation and communication (GA4, GA9)

LO4 - Develop a research proposal informed by knowledge and skills in qualitative data management (GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - Recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society

GA3 - Apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media

GA10 - Utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively



Theoretical and paradigmatic frameworks in qualitative research

  • Interpretive
  • Critical
  • Postmodern

Designing qualitative research in Health Science research

Qualitative research methodologies

  • Ethnography
  • Grounded theory
  • Phenomenology
  • Action research
  • Case study
  • Discourse analysis

Sampling methods

Ethical issues

Data collection methods

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Participant observation

Reflexivity in qualitative research

Data analysis methods

Building rigour into qualitative research

Data management

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale


Teaching and learning strategies utilised in this unit will support students in meeting the aim and achieving the learning outcomes relevant to this unit as well as to the broader course learning outcomes.

Online mode

This unit utilises an active learning approach whereby students will engage in readings and video-recordings, e-Module activities and opportunities to collaborate with peers in an online environment. This can involve, but is not limited to, on-line discussion forums, chat rooms, guided reading and webinars. In addition, learning e-modules and links to electronic readings will be provided on the learning environment online (LEO) so as to guide students’ reading and extend other aspects of online learning.

Through an online learning platform, students will have the opportunity to reflect on important aspects of qualitative research methods. This may include, but is not limited to, consideration of research paradigms, the position of the researcher in qualitative research and hallmarks of rigour.  

This approach to learning is flexible and inclusive, allowing students the opportunity to analyse and critically evaluate various approaches to qualitative research design in preparation for undertaking a supervised research project.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to achieve a cumulative grade of at least 50% across all assessments.   The assessment strategy used allows for the progressive development of knowledge and skills in relation to qualitative research methods so that students can demonstrate their preparedness to undertake a scholarly research study using a qualitative research approach.   

In order to develop their preparedness to undertake a scholarly research-based project, students need to develop a firm understanding of important aspects of qualitative research methodology, such as data collection and data analysis. The first assessment task involves the submission of posts made on the electronic discussion forum. The discussion forum allows students to demonstrate their initial understanding of important aspects of qualitative research methodology and to extend their knowledge via discussion with the lecturer and peers. 

The second assessment task requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of these aspects of methodology and to consider whether to continue with this data collection and/or data analysis method in their research proposal. 

The final assessment task involves the development of a research proposal using qualitative research methodology. This requires students to demonstrate an understanding of the various elements of a research proposal and their knowledge of qualitative research methodology with respect to these elements.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Discussion Forum

Requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of challenging issues and processes relevant to qualitative research methods through collaborative engagement with peers and the lecturer.



GA1, GA2, GA3

Essay: Data Collection /Analysis

Requires students to demonstrate their understanding of an aspect of qualitative research design.



GA4, GA9

Expanded Methods Section of the Research Proposal (2500 words)

Requires students to demonstrate their understanding of various elements of a research proposal and qualitative research methodology, and methods.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Borbasi, S., Jackson, D.& East, L. (2019). Navigating the maze of research: Enhancing nursing and midwifery practice. (5th ed.). Chatswood, NSW: Mosby Elsevier.

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Singapore: Sage

Geia, L.K., Hayes, B., & Usher, K. (2013). Yarning/Aboriginal storytelling: Towards an understanding of an Indigenous perspective and its implications for research practice. Contemporary Nurse, 46(1), 13-17.

Grbich, C. (2013). Chapter one: Introduction Qualitative data analysis: An introduction (2nd ed., pp. 1-38). Singapore: Sage.

Liamputtong, P. (2020). Qualitative research methods (5th ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Pope, C., & Mays, N. (2020). Qualitative research in health care (4th ed.).  Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell

Rehg, E., & SmithBattle, L. (2015). On to the 'rough ground': Introducing doctoral students to philosophical perspectives on knowledge. Nursing Philosophy, 16(2), 98-109.

Silverman, D. (2017). Doing qualitative research (5th ed.). Singapore: Sage.

Silverman, D. (2019). Interpreting qualitative data (6th ed.). Singapore: Sage.

Walter, M. (Ed.). (2019). Social research methods (4th ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press

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