Qualitative Methods

Course Overview 

The focus of this online, asynchronous course is a general introduction to qualitative methods research, with a particular emphasis on the role of qualitative or open-ended inquiry in health-related implementation research. Implementation research is the study of how research-informed practice change can be fostered and sustained in health systems or community settings. Implementation researchers understand that solutions have to work in real-world conditions, which are inherently complex and changeable. Qualitative methods are essential in implementation research because they enable an in-depth consideration of the dynamic context of implementation – including institutional structures, stakeholder groups’ interests and interactions, human-technology interactions, and political, economic, legal, and social conditions.  

This course will present multiple qualitative research strategies by way of readings, lectures, case studies, and online discussions. Trainees will gain basic skills in conducting interviews, focus groups, and observations, data analysis, and innovative approaches such as rapid analysis. The course will also cover philosophical foundations, theory, and methodological topics including sampling, generalization, and validity. 

At the end of the course, trainees will be able to:

  • Design and plan a qualitative methods research project.
  • Describe the uses, advantages, and disadvantages of semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and ethnographic observation.
  • Develop an interview and focus group guide.
  • Engage in collaborative qualitative data analysis.
  • Critically evaluate the use of methodological paradigms and theoretical models to inform qualitative implementation research.
  • Explain why a qualitative/open-ended approach is an essential component of all implementation research.


Clinicians, public health practitioners, and researchers seeking to gain basic knowledge and skills in qualitative methods to inform implementation research. The course may be particularly useful for researchers and practitioners seeking introductory training in qualitative methodologies and guidance on how to incorporate them in predominantly quantitative projects.

Course Prerequisites

Training or experience in public health, epidemiology, quality improvement, or health care organization leadership.  Exceptions for these prerequisites may be made with the consent of the course directors.


Course Directors
Sara Ackerman, PhD, MPH
Kim Koester, PhD

Small Group Leaders

Lecturers and Guest Speakers

Required Textbooks/Materials

Required readings will be posted on the course website.

Suggested Resources

Qualitative methods in implementation science. National Cancer Institute.

Course Requirements

Trainees are expected to watch all assigned videos; complete assigned readings; complete homework assignments; participate in weekly online forums; submit a final project; and complete course evaluations. Homework assignments will be oriented toward the practical application of course content and development of a qualitative or mixed methods research plan.

Students will submit a 3-5 page plan for a research project or health program that incorporates qualitative or mixed methods. 

Completing this course will take an estimated 6-8 hours of work per module.