Probing the "How" and the "Why": An Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods

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Fall 2017 quarter

Taught by

energy and environmental policy, political ecology, social impacts of energy choices

Quantitative methods of research typically focus on answering questions about the extent or significance of relationships between variables. In contrast, qualitative research seeks to answer questions that usually start with "Why. . . " and "How . . ." through nuanced descriptions and explanations. This elective introduces students to both the theory and methodology associated with diverse kinds of qualitative research. Students will explore the social construction of reality, what it means to participate in "self-full" research, phenomenology, and grounded theory through reading and seminar discussions. Students will also examine environmental studies that use observational research, archival searches, case studies, interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Finally, students will develop skills on specific tools for data analysis and interpretation, including the use of Atlas.ti for coding. Students can expect to complete exercises throughout the quarter that help them discover key features and techniques of qualitative research. This course provides a strong conceptual and practical foundation for students who want to employ qualitative methods in their thesis or subsequent research.

Faculty Biography
Kathleen M. Saul, M.A., M.E.S., received her BA in French and BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and MA in Management from the Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania) before turning her attention to environmental issues and eventually joining the MES program at Evergreen.  After completing her degree in 2009, she taught Statistics in the Evening and Weekend studies program and Qualitative Methods, an Energy elective and gCORE in the Graduate Program on the Environment. Kathleen then moved to the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware to pursue her PhD. Her dissertation research focuses on the displacement of people that results from large scale technology projects, with a focus those involving nuclear technology.  While at Delaware, she participated in research projects looking into the energy policy implications of the Fukushima nuclear disaster as well as alternative administrative forms for organizations devoted to energy conservation, efficiency, and sustainable energy options. She also taught in the undergraduate Introduction to Energy Policy and Sustainable Energy Policy and Planning courses.  Her engineering acumen, business sense, and environmental awareness all come together in understanding modern energy systems and the green energy economy.

Program Details


Fall Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Wednesday 6-10 pm

Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online