Topic outline

  • General


    Assistant Professor Natalia Vuori           •   TUAS 3119   •   +358 50 3791013    •

    About the Course:

    Welcome to Qualitative Research Methods! The module described in this syllabus is 3 ECTS. The full syllabus is available here

    TU-L0031 provides an overview of qualitative research methods that are commonly used in management research. Different approaches include case studies, action research, ethnography, and historical. We will look at the steps involved in planning a research project, data collection and analyzing, and reporting (i.e. writing up) in a way that is expected for publication in top management journals.

    TU-L0031 is an interactive class with learning based predominantly on class discussions and activities.  Students are expected to properly prepare for each class, attend class, and actively participate in daily activities and discussions.

    This is a compulsory course for the students in the field of IEM and an optional course for the Doctoral Program in Science. The course is open to other Aalto University doctoral students (i.e. from Aalto BIZ) and students from other universities as long as the size of class permits.

    Level of the course:

    Doctoral level


    TU-L0000 Research Methods in Industrial Engineering and Management

    Language of instruction:



    The course is offered for doctoral students. To enroll see instructions on the course website. The course will be organized if at least four students have enrolled.

    Grading Scale:

    1-5 for the 3 ECTS module; class participation 30% and pre-class assignments 70%


    Class participation: 6 classes x 4 hours per class = 24 hours

    Pre-class work (2-3 tasks per class): 6 classes x 9.5 hours per class = 57 hours

    Learning outcomes:

    By the end of the course, you will be able to:
        • Understand what qualitative research is
        • Understand when to use it
        • Understand how to design research
        • Understand how to formulate research questions
        • Understand how to collect qualitative data
        • Understand how to analyze qualitative data
        • Understand how to report qualitative research

    Teaching Period:

    This course is offered in a condensed format in Otaniemi in the TUAS building (Maarintie 8, Espoo) in the AS3 Saab Space - 1021-1022, over two weeks. The days and times are:

    Mon 13.5, 9-13


    Your research questions formulation

    Wed 15.5, 9-13


    Collecting your data

    Fri 17.8, 9-13

    Case studies/Action research/

    Analyzing your data

    Mon 20.5, 9-13

    Analyzing qualitative data/

    Analyzing your data

    Wed 22.5, 9-13

    Ethnography and process studies

    Developing your model

    Mon 27.5, 9-13

    Writing it up/

    Presentations of your models

    NOTE: For a more detailed outline of the days see the course syllabus in the Materials section!


    I use the standard Aalto University 1-5 grading scale. I will strive to provide you with feedback on your initial assignments quickly so you will be able to incorporate that feedback as you move forward.


    In-class participation


    Pre-class assignment
    (3 tasks per class x 6 classes)

    1.       One-page reflection notes on the article of the day

    2.        Slides summary of one article of your choice

    3.        One-page reflection notes on an empirical article of the day (all classes except the first class)



    Instruction for assignments

    Pre-assignment 1: make notes on the article of the day

    Each day includes one required reading to provide us with a shared introduction to a particular methodology being discussed that day. As you read this article, I encourage you to take notes with a particular focus on:
    1)       what do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the method in general
    2)       any aspects of the methodology that you want to delve into more deeply
    3)       any questions that come to mind as you are reading

    Pre-assignment 2: slide summary of ONE  article of your choice

    Each class will include a handful of articles from which you may chose the reading that is of most interest to you personally. Building off our common base of understanding from the Activity One Required Reading, these articles are meant to foster a diversity of knowledge in our classroom discussion. After reading the article, please prepare a 2 slide summary (PowerPoint or PDF).
    Slide 1:  A summary of the article (e.g. main topic, suggestions, recommendations and/or conclusions)

    Slide 2:  Your opinion (e.g. key learnings, opinions, what you found most interesting, and/or what YOU perceive as strengths and weaknesses) Hint: Be sure to clearly distinguish your thoughts from the those of the author(s).
    Note: Different information will be more or less relevant depending on the article you chose. Please decide what is most valuable for your summary as in one to two slides you will not be able to include all of the examples provided in the brackets. Please be prepared to present your summary slide(s) to the group in class.

    To help easily identify which slides summarize which article please save your slide in the following format: 1stAuthorLastNameYear (e.g. Aastrup2008.pptx). Thanks.

    Pre-assignment 3: critique of methodology in practice (ONE EMPIRICAL ARTICLE)  

    Having been introduced to the focal methodology in activities one and two, activity three provides you with the opportunity to read and review an article that uses the focal methodology and has been published in a top journal. After reading the article, please answer the following questions.
    1)       Why (or why not) is the qualitative method used appropriate for answering the authors’ research question(s)? (Hint: If the authors explicitly state their rationale don’t just rely on their thinking – apply what you have learned about the methodology to your own explanation)

    2)       What assumptions (explicitly or implicitly stated) did the authors have going into the analysis?

    3)       What makes the qualitative analysis powerful (i.e. what insights were the authors able to make because of the methodology they used)?

    4)       What are the challenges or limitations of their approach? (Hint: most papers include a boilerplate of limitations, I challenge you to go beyond the authors’ own stated limitations and to tell me what you think are the limitations given the method employed)

    5)       How could this analysis be improved? Be specific and practical (i.e. do not make suggestions that you could not realistically envision yourself implementing).

    Note: Question one is meant to be more abstract and answer the question about general types of studies (e.g. process questions lend themselves to method x because of reason y), whereas the remaining questions are specific to the analysis in the article (e.g. because the authors watched the exchange between the doctor and nurse for the duration of the entire surgery they were able to not only capture the oral conversation, but the body language that undermined the respectful tone of the conversation).
    Please write your single-spaced response using 12-point Times New Roman or similar font and use 2.5 cm margins. Thanks.


    Participation is a large part of TU-L0031 as much of the value of this seminar derives from collective discussions that involve everyone. As such, you will be asked to read several articles prior to each class and then actively share your insights through class discussion. We will also engage in hands-on activities designed to introduce you to the highlighted methodologies in practice. The overall goal for our short time together is for you to improve your ability to contribute to discussions in a meaningful and professionally appropriate way.[1]