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Human Research Methodologies

elective unit for postgraduates

Who this unit is for: This unit introduces students to and supports them in undertaking human research in professional contexts. There is a particular interest in understanding how people make meaning of their lived experience in a given context. The focus is on the development and writing of research projects using qualitative and quantitative (or mixed) methodologies appropriate to the student’s discipline and the culture and sociology of their chosen field or practice. This could be within an academic award pathway or simply within their work/service context.

Content: Research formation is enabled by helping participants to: identify research focus and questions; evaluate, choose and implement an appropriate methodology, including evaluation of mixed methods; understand and prepare for the gaining ethical clearance; develop a literature review. Theological Reflection will be explored in the context of the Action Research Cycle. Research methodologies particularly relevant to Counselling and Psychotherapy, Practical Theology and Ethnographic Research may include: Action Research, Grounded Theory, Autoethnography, Narrative analysis and Case Study.  Specific data collection methods such as interview, surveys and focus groups will be considered. Modified Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMS) and Software (eg NVivo) resources that assist with research writing, data collection, analysis and referencing will also be evaluated.

Learning Outcomes: On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Describe and apply the terminology, theoretical foundations, principles and limitations of research methodologies appropriate to their field of practice and context.
  2. Critically review current literature in their research field and evaluate the methodologies used in selected research projects/studies.
  3. Formulate a research project, outlining research questions and the key elements of the research methodology appropriate to their inquiry.
  4. Provide a systematic rationale for their chosen research methodology, illustrating this through the research design and describing the skills required for effective implementation of contextually appropriate methods of data collection.
  5. Describe and illustrate how Theological Reflection (individual and community) can complement the design, implementation, data analysis and practice dimensions and recommendations of a research project.
  6. Critically evaluate the ethical issues relevant to their project and provide a contextualised understanding of Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) requirements.

Prerequisites: This unit is only offered at postgraduate level. Students will be expected to have completed foundational and elective units (at AQF level 7 or 8) in the discipline in which they intend to conduct research.

Teaching methods: Before the weekly seminar/workshops participants will engage lectures and video presentations, readings and set activities. Remote learning and blended delivery are embodied in the unit. Workshops will focus on: integrating the theoretical foundations, history and principles that have shaped the practice of human research; the design and practical implementation of chosen research methods; methods of data analysis.
Students are expected to participate in group work. Peer and shared reflective processes will complement lecturer feedback via assessment tasks. The practical challenges, ethical concerns and collaborative dimensions of such research will be explored through case studies and real-life examples. Additional group work: Critical review of actual studies and evaluative assessment of Instruments such as PROMS and software such as NVivo will enable participants to develop competencies and resources relevant to their discipline, context and stage of research formation/activity.


Research Article Critique 1500 words 25%
Methodological Case Study 1500 words 25%
Project Proposal 3000 words 50%

Faculty: Alan Niven (Research Coordinator); Chris Turner (Field D Coordinator).  A discipline-balanced mix of people internal and external to Stirling, including industry ‘pracademics’ and researchers from a variety of sectors will cover: Education, Church/Parish, Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy; Aid and Development; Aged Care; Community Services.

Offered: 2019 in semester 1.

Indicative Bibliography:

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, William Bizup and William FitzGerald. The Craft of Research. 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Bryman, Alan. Social Research Methods. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Cameron, Helen and Catherine Duce. Researching Practice in Ministry and Mission: A Companion. London: SCM Press, 2013.

Cameron, Helen and Deborah Bhatti. Talking about God in Practice: Theological Action Research and Practical Theology. London, SCM Press, 2010.

Charmaz, Kathy. Constructing Grounded Theory. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2014.

Creswell, John. W and Cheryl Poth. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Approaches. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2018.

Denzin, Norman K. The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2018.

McLeod, John. Doing research in counselling and psychotherapy. Sage, UK. 2015.

Rossman, Gretchen B. and Sharon Rallis. Introduction to Qualitative Research: Learning in the Field. 4th edn. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2017.

Sensing, Tim. Qualitative Research: A Multi-Methods Approach to Projects for Doctor of Ministry Theses, Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2011.

Swinton, John and Harriet Mowat. Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. 2nd Ed. London: SCM 2016.

Yin, Robert. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage, 2014 (6th edn. eBook 2017).