Qualitative Environmental Research Methods (QERM)

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Code: 
ENVS 5043
Course Description: 

Environmental studies specifically engage the relationships between social and political communities and nature. In order to understand these relationships and their dynamics, that are at the heart of environmental issues and problems, this course helps students to build a critical and practical understanding of environmental research that stresses social perspectives and environmental interactions.  The course is specifically designed for masters students preparing to conduct thesis research and seeking to understand more about how knowledge is generated to shed light on environmental issues and problems. In addition to exploring the key elements of environmental research design based on traditions aligned with qualitative methodologies, we will critically discern different approaches to environmental qualitative research and consider some basic social science data collection protocols for conducting environmental field research. Briefly, we will consider the general approach to qualitative data analysis based on fundamental coding principles. Through seminars, readings, exercises, and assignments on environmental research design and methods, students will be able to draft their own environmental thesis research while having an understanding of different environmental research approaches and protocols based on traditions in qualitative research methodologies.  Naturally, research ethics is an important consideration throughout environmental research and will be engaged in the context of the key learning points of the course.

Learning Outcomes: 



In-Class Learning Format

Learning Outcome


% Grade

Research Design: Interactive Seminars and Exercises

Know and clarify the main elements of environmental qualitative research design including establishing a focus, research question, identifying appropriate data collection tools and a theoretical/conceptual framework, and engaging purposeful sampling.

One-page paper that summarizes/justifies draft thesis research design. This is a living document that will be redrafted over time and submitted at the end of class (template and grading criteria to be provided).


Research Approaches: Student-led class discussions based on readings

Discern different environmental research approaches, and identify their purpose, value and weaknesses, particularly in light of basic research design principles.

In-class, team-led discussions based on course readings (instructions to be provided).


Data Collection: Interactive seminars, in-class discussions and exercises

Understand how to generate a meaningful data set based on qualitative data collection methods.

1)      In-class “field observation” exercise

2)      Fieldwork/Interview Protocol

5% + 20%

Data Analysis: Interactive Seminar and in-class exercise

Data coding skills: capacity to generate categories and concepts, and assert overarching, interrelated themes based on data.

In-class exercise (instructions to be provided in advance)





Please see table above.


Environmental Research Methods