Work Group on Qualitative Research

Live Labs

POLS 708/WGSS 802
Qualitative Research Methods/Feminist Methodologies


During the Spring 2016 semester, Prof. Hannah Britton led an interdisciplinary group of graduate students in a “live lab” qualitative pilot project through the POLS 708/WGSS 802 methods course. Using the Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Initiative (ASHTI) research project as a starting point, students learned a range of qualitative methods—participant observation, content analysis, focus groups, and interviews—and applied them to questions of anti-trafficking efforts in the Midwest.

POLS 708/WGSS 802 serves five major objectives:
  1. To familiarize graduate students with the methodological and epistemological debates concerning qualitative research.
  2. To give students a range of practical, applied tools during the semester.
  3. To provide students with a space—a pilot project—to practice and implement these methodological tools.
  4. To read and discuss work by feminist researchers, exploring both the challenges they faced and the lessons they learned.
  5. To understand how to move from project design to project implementation to data analysis and reporting.
The “live lab” component of POLS 708/WGSS 802 allowed graduate students to contribute to an ongoing research project at the University of Kansas, while developing their own qualitative method skills. For the ASHTI team, this unique course design opened up important methodological conversations for the pilot project, such as the format of the interview protocol or the focus on particular organizations for research.

WGSS graduate student Rachel Denney served as a GTA for this course: "The 'live lab' format gave the POLS/WGSS students the opportunity to learn and immediately apply qualitative research skills in real time on an active study. They learned—in a very direct, hands-on way—the benefits and challenges to qualitative methodology. As the GTA for both sections, it was fascinating for me to see how students from different disciplinary backgrounds approached both the methods and the ASHTI project itself. Each student found an aspect of the project that sparked his/her personal interest and brought a new perspective to ASHTI going forward."


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