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This one-day course, delivered face-to-face in Oxford, provides hands-on practical experience of the qualitative observation in health care and health services research.

The group is deliberately small and teaching is discussion-based, to ensure we can flexibly respond to the needs and interests of the group. The course will be led by Professor Catherine Pope, a Medical Sociologist with 30 years’ experience of conducting qualitative observational research in health care settings.

 Whilst there are no prerequisites for this course, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of qualitative research. An intention to collect data using qualitative observational methods is desirable, as it is useful to apply the learning to your own examples during the course.  While it is aimed at the needs of health professionals, researchers, academics and postgraduate students, the skills developed here apply to many settings - so everyone is welcome, regardless of their research or professional background.

 The course will include a practical session involving observation in public settings near the venue. This may involve walking and stairs. Please contact the course tutor if you anticipate any difficulties participating as we will work with you to adapt this session.

 This course will focus on observational data collection and does not cover broader qualitative methodology and methods, or analysis in great depth. For more extensive overviews, please see our ‘Introduction to qualitative research methods’ course.


This course will include:

  • Lectures on observation as a method, ethnographic research and other study designs, making field notes, access and research roles
  • A guided assessment of a published exemplar  
  • Group discussions about using observational methods, interrogating  published descriptions  and considering ethical concerns
  • Hands-on exercises to develop your observation skills and field note making, (depending on the access needs of the class, this may include an excursion to a local area) and to reflect on researcher role and embodiment.


By the end of this workshop, participants will:

  • Have an understanding of how observational methods are used in qualitative research in health settings and the kinds of research designs that incorporate this method
  • Have an appreciation of the practical and ethical issues confronting researchers undertaking qualitative observation
  • Have gained practical experience of doing observation and making field notes, as well in reading published accounts of these methods
  • Be able to consider how the researcher influences and impacts on the setting, and the different roles they may adopt or be assigned

We provide:

  • A course handbook containing slides and materials
  • Online access to slides and materials
  • Experienced, approachable tutors who are research-active
  • Lunch and refreshments