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 outcome


On completing the course students will have:

  • A sound understanding of the range of ontological and epistemological foundations for qualitative research in sport
  • Knowledge about 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
  • Knowledge about how different paradigmatic assumptions affect how methods (e.g. interview) are conceptualised, utilised in data generation, analysed and represented in research findings
  • Knowledge about criteria for judging the quality of qualitative research
  • Knowledge about ethical reflexivity in qualitative inquiry


On completing the course students will be able to:

  • 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

General competence

On completing the course students will be able to:

  • 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

Mason, J. (2018). Qualitative Researching (3rd ed.). Sage Publications.
To read:
pp. 3-19, Intellectual Puzzles and research Questions
pp. 163-184, Being Creative with Methods
pp. 187-218, Making Sense of Qualitative Data
pp. 219-253, Making Convincing Arguments with Qualitative Data
* You can borrow the book from the Library, here: ORIA

Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (Eds). (2018). Routledge Handbook of Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise. Routledge.
To read:
pp. 124-138, Conducting Observations in Sport and Exercise Settings
pp. 191-205, Using thematic analysis in sport and exercise research
pp. 330-339, Rethinking ‘validity’ and ‘trustworthiness’ in qualitative inquiry
pp- 355-367, The Web and Digital Qualitative Methods: Researching online and researching the online in sport and exercise studies.
* This book is available online: Click here to download.
** NB! To open the electronic book off campus, you need to use the following VPN connection: Click here to download.

1 DIGITAL COMPENDIUM - soon available as a PDF through Canvas:
Dowling, F. (Ed.). (2021). PhD645: Qualitative methodology: Spring 2021 (Digital compendium): Norges idrettshøgskole.

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 Publications.

Markula, P. & Silk, M. (2011). Qualitative Research for Physical Culture. Palgrave Macmillan.
pp. 34-56, Paradigmatic Approaches to Physical Culture.

Sparkes, A. (2002). Telling Tales in Sport and Physical Education: A Qualitative Journey. Human Kinetics.
pp.39-56, Realist Tales
pp. 107-126, Poetic Representations

Sparkes, A. & Smith, B. (2014). Qualitative Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health: From Process to Product. Routledge.
pp. 6-32, What is qualitative research?
pp 33-59, Traditions in Qualitative Research

Wolcott, H. (1990). On Seeking – and Rejecting – Validity in Qualitative Research. In E. Eisner & A. Peshkin (Eds), Qualitative Inquiry in Education: The Continuing Debate (pp. 121-152). Teachers College Press.


NB! To open the electronic articles off campus, you need to use the following VPN connection: Click here to download.

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.
* This article is available online: Click here to download.

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.
* This article is available online: Click here to download.

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.
* This article is available online: Click here to download.

Smith, J. (2009). Judging research quality: From certainty to contingency. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 1(2), 91-100.
* This article is available online: Click here to download.

Anbefalt litteratur

Ravn, S. & Højbjerre Larsen, (Red.). (2020). Krop og bevgæelse i idræt og sunnhed: Kulturanalytiske tilgange. Syddansk Universitetsforlag.
* You can borrow the book from the Library, here: ORIA