PhdD645 Qualitative methodology (5 ECTS) 

Course facts

Course code
Course title
Qualitative methodology
Course language
Academic responsible
Fiona Dowling
For programstudents only


This course aims to provide students with knowledge about the range of ontological andepistemological foundations underpinning qualitative research in sport studies. Students will begiven the opportunity to develop their understanding of, and articulate in student-centred workinggroups and a self-selected written assignment, the tenets upon which their own research project isfounded in relation to a range of issues: project design, the choice of appropriate methodologicaltools, analysis of data, judgement criteria/ validity, reflexivity and representing qualitative researchfindings. The course is relevant for students at all stages of their PhD project.

Learning outcomes

On completing the course students will be able to

  • understand the range of ontological and epistemological foundations for qualitative research in sport
  • know how different paradigmatic foundations for qualitative inquiry influence the entire research process from project design (including the development of research questions) to the representation of findings
  • know how different paradigmatic assumptions affect how methods (e.g. interview) are conceptualised, utilised in data generation, analysed and represented in research findings
  • know criteria for judging the quality of qualitative research
  • know ethical reflexivity in qualitative inquiry
  • identify and critically analyse the strengths and weaknesses of a range of ontological approaches to qualitative inquiry
  • present orally and write about their own research in ways that reflect a chosen paradigmatic foundation
  • make judgement calls about good qualitative research
  • participate in national/international fora and discuss qualitative research findings
  • identify new relevant research questions and design robust qualitative research projects

Learning styles and activities

The course is an intensive course that runs over 4 days (24 hours comprising seminars/lectures, student discussions). Students will be expected to contribute to the seminar and play an active role in the sessions (present aspects of their research project; reflect upon their own research project as well as fellow students; discuss assigned literature).
In addition, students are expected to pursue 126 hours of self-study.

Mandatory assignment

There are two pre-course assignments:

  • Students are expected to have read assigned texts prior to the course. On the basis of their understanding of these texts, they should prepare a 3-5 minutes presentation in which they present an issue they wish to debate and discuss further within the group.
  • Students must submit a short description (1 page of A4) about their existing PhD project a week prior to the commencement of the course. This ought to include: research questions; proposed project design; subject discipline(s); paradigmatic foundations; an indication of the stage reached in the research process; a list of literature that has methodologically informed the project (max 10 texts). (Please note, however, that there will be understandably variations in the degree to which you can position your project).


Students are expected to write a paper of 2000 words excluding references of their choice on an aspect of the course. The title of the paper must be approved by the lecturers within a given deadline. The paper will be graded: pass/fail. 

Graded pass/fail.

Core material

Core literature - in APA-style, 7th ed.:
Parts from 1 book:
Mason, J. (2018). Qualitative researching (3rd ed.). Sage.
Please read pages 3-19, 163-184, 187-253. You may borrow the book from the library.

Parts from 1 e-book:
Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (Eds). (2018). Routledge handbook of qualitative research in sport and exercise. Routledge.
Please read pages 124-138, 191-205,  330-339 and 355-367.
NB! For å lese e-boka når du ikke er på NIH, må du logge deg på VPN-klienten.

4 articles in electronic journals:
For å lese artiklene når du ikke er på NIH, må du logge deg på VPN-klienten.

Dowling, F. & Flintoff, A. (2011). Getting beyond normative interview talk of sameness and celebrating difference. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 3(1), 63-79.

Smith, B. (2018). Generalizability in qualitative research: Misunderstandings, opportunities and recommendations for the sport and exercise sciences. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 10(1), 137-149.

Smith, B. & McGannon, K. (2017). Developing rigor in qualitative research: Problems and opportunities within sport and exercise psychology. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 11(1), 101-121.

Smith, J. (2009). Judging research quality: From certainty to contingency. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 1(2), 91-100.

1 digital compendium - available through Canvas (1 PDF):
Dowling, F. (Ed.). (2023). PhD645: Qualitative methodology: Spring 2024 [Digital compendium].

Referencelist (the table of contents) alphabetical in APA-style:
Kvale, S. (1989). To Validate is to Question. In S. Kvale (Ed.), Issues of validity in qualitative research (pp. 73-92). Studentlitteratur.

Lincoln, Y., Lynham, S. & Guba, E. (2011). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences, revisited. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 97-128). Sage.

Markula, P. & Silk, M. (2011). Qualitative research for physical culture. Palgrave Macmillan.
Pages 24-56.

Sparkes, A. (2002). Telling tales in sport and physical education: A qualitative journey. Human Kinetics.
Pages 39-56 and 107-126.

Sparkes, A. & Smith, B. (2014). Qualitative research methods in sport, exercise and health.
Pages 6-59.

Anbefalt litteratur

1 book:
Ravn, S. & Højbjerre Larsen, (Red.). (2020). Krop og bevgæelse i idræt og sunnhed: Kulturanalytiske tilgange. Syddansk Universitetsforlag. You may borrow the book from the library.