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Module 6100
Qualitative Research and Developing Grounded Theory in Social Sciences


Prof. Dr. Vera Bitsch, Technical University of Munich, Economics of Horticulture and Landscaping

Course Description

Qualitative research has gone through a renaissance in many social sciences over the past two decades. Albeit operating in a mainly quantitative field, agricultural and applied economists have found themselves using qualitative research approaches, especially in dealing with wicked problems, such as sustainability, and small numbers of cases, such as in agribusiness contexts or institutional economics issues. Often perceived as exploratory research, qualitative approaches offer much more than initial data for framing a quantitative project when used in a rigorous and skilled manner. This course provides an introduction to qualitative research paradigm(s), qualitative research methods (e.g., in-depth interviews, (participant) observation, focus group discussions, and action research), issues in qualitative research (e.g., the researcher as the research instrument, reflexivity), qualitative data analysis, and the development of theory based on qualitative (and quantitative) data.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction
    • The qualitative paradigm(s) and the role of qualitative research
    • Qualitative research in applied economics and management
  2. Qualitative methodologies
    • Grounded Theory
    • Case study
  3. Methods of data collection
    • In-depth interview and focus group discussion
    • Observation and participant observation
    • Document analysis
  4. Qualitative data analysis
    • Archiving, coding, and memos
    • Issues of interpretation and writing
  5. Ethics and evaluation criteria in qualitative research

Teaching methods

Lecture, seminar, discussions, presentations, hands-on-exercises, and research project


Based on participation, assignments (oral and written), research report, and reflection

Credit points: 3


Prerequisites are a basic understanding of philosophy of science, the concept of scientific paradigms, and the main differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches, as well as, an open inquiring mind. Before the course each student is required to complete an assignment. Before and during the course reading and research projects are assigned.


Appropriate English language material will be assigned as needed. For German-reading students the following text is recommended:
Bitsch, V. (2001). Qualitative Forschung in der angewandten Ökonomie. Schwerpunkt: Landwirtschaft. Aachen: Shaker Verlag. ISBN 3-8265-8737-5.

Software: Atlas-ti (free trial version available)

Language: English


The course takes one week. Advance sign-up is required.
Typically it is held at Technical University of Munich in Freising.
For further information contact Vera Bitsch, bitsch@tum.de.