ICS 235A: Qualitative Research Methods

Winter 2005

Tu Th, 3:30-5:00, ICS 243


The purpose of this class is to introduce you to the use of qualitative/ethnographic research methods in the design of information systems.

The class will be organized into three segments. In the first, we will explore the use of ethnographic methods in information system design, take a quick overview of the practice of ethnographic investigation and analysis, decide on projects and file for IRB approval. In the second segment, we will look in more depth at ethnographic methods, using both readings and your own project work as examples. In the third, we will consider some contemporary issues in ethnographic research, addressing topics such as representation, authority, and participation.

For more details, see the full syllabus.


The primary component of your grade will be based on a small ethnographic project that you will undertake during the quarter. Projects will be conducted in pairs.

A secondary but significant component of your grade will be based on your participation in classroom discussions.

Reading Schedule

Thursday 1/6

Overview; Ethnography and Design

Tuesday 1/11

Human subjects procedures; Interpretive analysis

Thursday 1/13

Projects; Styles of ethnographic investigation

Tuesday 1/18

Visit by Ken Anderson; ethnography and technology.

Thursday 1/20

No class

Tuesday 1/25

Ethnography and technology

Thursday 1/27


Tuesday 2/1


  • Weiss, 1994. Interviewing, from "Learning from Strangers".
  • Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw. Chapters 1-4.

Thursday 2/3


Tuesday 2/8

Topic-based examples

Thursday 2/10

Topic-based examples

Tuesday 2/15

Genevieve Bell

Thursday 2/17

Data session

Class handouts

Tuesday 2/22

Data session

Class handouts

Thursday 2/24

Data session

Class handouts

Tuesday 3/1

No class


Thursday 3/3

Data session

Class handouts

Tuesday 3/8

Data session

Class handouts

Thursday 2/24

Contemporary Issues