Qualitative research methods

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Economics, Data Analysis and Decision Making
Policy Essentials


Why does doing qualitative research matter? Who should be included and how do we access them? How do we ask good questions? How can we best analyse qualitative data? Learn from our experts on how to design, conduct and analyse interviews and focus groups with this practical introduction to scholarly qualitative research for policymaking.

This short course is a practical introduction to scholarly qualitative research for policymaking, with a focus on designing, conducting and analysing interviews and focus groups. It asks and answers four core questions:

  • Why does doing qualitative research matter?
  • Who should be included in qualitative research and how do we access them?
  • How do we ask good questions?
  • How can we best analyse qualitative data?

The lectures and interactive live sessions will include real-world examples from qualitative research projects that the presenters have undertaken; as well as practical examples to work through to help you design your own ethical and rigorous research.

This course will run as an online and distance program in 2024. It is scheduled to run across four weeks 18 October - 8 November 2023 with a course orientation / meet and greet on 19 October. Specific dates and times to note in your diary are as follows. Registrants will receive calendar invitations to the live sessions.

  • 10:00am-11:00am Friday 18 October 2024 - Meet and greet / Course introduction
  • 10:00am-11:30am Thursday 24 October 2024 – Live session 1
  • 10:00am-11:30am Thursday 31 October 2024 – Live session 2
  • 10:00am-11:30am Thursday 7 November 2024 – Live session 3
  • 10:00am-11:30am Thursday 14 November 2024 – Live session 4

Note: Dates and times are in Canberra time (AEDT/GMT+11). The calendar invite for each session should automatically adjust to your timezone when you add it to your calendar. You can check at a site like this to be sure.

Course date: 
18 October – 14 November 2024
Online and distance

Before/by 18 September 2024: $1,195

After 18 September 2024: $1,495

Group discounts available.

Course overview

Module 1: Why does qualitative research matter?

This module covers core introductory concepts on doing qualitative research in the social sciences. Operationalising transparent and rigorous qualitative research matters for collecting useful data for policymaking. Qualitative research is also distinct due to the centrality of meaning, context and history in analysis and interpretation.

In this module we will look at:

  • Introduction to theorising qualitative social science research
  • Differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Introduction to interviews and focus groups

Module 2: Who to include and how to access them

This module focuses on how people centred qualitative research is undertaken, with particular attention to the ethics of data collection. It explores how to clearly define populations being studied and justify these decisions, and how best to sample, access and engage research participants. The module will include discussion of how to engage hard to access populations with distinct experiences.

In this module we will discuss:

  • The ethics of doing people centred research and doing it well
  • Sampling and recruitment strategies
  • Engaging with diverse research participants

Module 3: How to ask questions

This module focuses on the process of research design in qualitative research, including operationalising research questions and selecting methods. It will introduce best practice for interviews and focus groups, using a variety of successful (and unsuccessful) case studies. It will demonstrate how asking open-ended, theme driven questions in an interview setting is both an art and skill. Recently there has been a growth in using online methods of data collection for interviews and focus groups, and the advantages and disadvantages of this will also be discussed.

In this module we will look at:

  • Designing projects and research questions
  • Structuring theme-driven questions for interviews and focus groups
  • In-person versus online interviews and focus groups

Module 4: How to analyse qualitative data

This module explores how to systematically analyse and interpret qualitative data, with a focus on analysing data collected from interviews and focus groups. It focuses on how to code data and construct themes, introducing some of the key approaches to analysing data in social science research and sharing examples of coding matrices. It will also provide an overview of relevant qualitative data analysis software and discuss how to write reports based on qualitative data analysis.

In this module we will look at:

  • Coding and analysing interviews and focus group data
  • Software for qualitative analysis
  • Writing up data

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion, participants will have the knowledge and skills to:

  • Understand the distinct role for qualitative methods of data collection and analysis for policymaking
  • Evaluate different ways of undertaking qualitative data collection
  • Match research questions with methods
  • Understand ethical decision-making in research design choices
  • Justify population and sample selection choices
  • Capacity to make informed choices about in-person and online data collection methods
  • Understand how to design researchable questions for projects
  • Understand how to choose and apply a range of qualitative methods
  • Understand how to design theme-based open-ended questions for interviews and focus groups
  • Capacity to thematically code and synthesis large datasets of qualitative data
  • Understand the usefulness of qualitative analysis software
  • Capacity to design a report using qualitative data analysis

Online training: How it works

This is a real-time, date-specific course, in which you will join live classes, engage and connect with experts, other course participants and the Executive Education team. Here’s how it works:

  • Pre-course live session. This is an opportunity for you to grab a cuppa and join our meet and greet before the course commences.
  • Practice + Study. Set aside up to 2 hours per day – this time commitment will vary depending on how deeply you choose to engage with the material. It is up to you.
  • Course pack. Each participant will receive a carefully curated workbook, which includes everything you need to guide you through the course.
  • Live sessions with presenter. This is a specified date and time for you to come together with the presenter and other participants to consolidate your learning.
  • Post-course. On completion of the course, you will receive your post-course resources for your reference and further learning.

Why choose online training?

  • No time off work – study and practice when you can.
  • Busy schedule? No problem, you can go at your own pace, join just the live classes, and do the course work whenever suits you best. We know that work and family obligations can be overwhelming. Mix and match the schedule to fit your life.
  • No travel. This is a course right at your fingertips. With no travel expenses, this is a very affordable option for high-level training with world-leading experts.
  • Live interaction with world-leading experts. You’ll have direct access to all the best resources and trainers.
  • Working remotely? With the online and distance format, we welcome participants from around the world to join us.


What if I can’t make a live session? No problem, we understand you are busy. Live sessions are recorded for you to catch up in your own time.

What if I’m in a different time zone? All advertised course times from 1st October 2023 to 6th April 2024 are scheduled in Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) otherwise known as GMT+11. From 6th April 2024 scheduled times are Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) or GMT+10. Convert for your time zone here.

What if I am not tech savvy? As long as you have access to a phone or computer, you will have no problems. Our online courses require a working laptop, desktop or smart device with good internet connection. Bring your headset. Join the tech-check session for support and insider tips.

I would like to purchase multiple courses, are there any discounts available? Yes, discount offers are available if you would like to book multiple courses throughout the year. You may contact us to discuss further options.

I work for a company or organisation that would like to enrol multiple employees in the same time. Is it possible? Yes, discounted rates are available for groups attending from the same organisation. Get in touch with us if you want to register as a group.

Can’t find the answers are you looking for? Contact our team for support at

Course presenter(s)

Prof Ariadne Vromen

Professor Ariadne Vromen is the Sir John Bunting Chair of Public Administration in the Crawford School, a position that is co-funded by ANU and the Australia and New Zealand (ANZSOG) School of Government. As Deputy Dean (Research) for ANZSOG, and a member of Crawford’s Policy and Governance Department, Ariadne’s focus is on research leadership and strategy to foster excellence in impactful and applied research; while continuing her existing research projects in governance, political sociology, and public administration. Her research interests are diverse, and include citizen engagement, digital politics and governance, women and the future of work, policy advocacy, and young people and politics.

In mid-2020 Ariadne started an ARC Linkage project ‘Designing Gender Equality into the Future of Work’ with colleagues at the University of Sydney that contrasts change and technological disruption in the retail and legal industries. She is also currently working with long-term collaborators on two books: one on online petitions, citizen engagement and politics; the other on storytelling and policy advocacy. All her research interests are underpinned by an interest in political equality and social justice – and these core questions of redistribution and recognition will be even more important to address via post-Covid19 policymaking and civil society organising.

Professor Vromen is Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia; and a visiting Senior Fellow at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin, Germany.

Professor Vromen co-founded and co-lead the Australian Political Studies Association’s research group on Political Organisations and Participation. From 2017-2020 she was an active member of the Australian Research Council’s College of Experts.

Dr Laura Davy

Dr Laura Davy is a Research Fellow with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and the Crawford School of Public Policy. She has a background in political theory, sociology and social policy research.

Her current research focuses on the implementation and outcomes of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the disability and aged care sectors. She is particularly interested in human rights informed approaches to policy design and implementation and the implications for service users and citizens of the shift towards individualised and market-based social services delivery.

Updated:  18 July 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team