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The Graduate Certificate Program in Qualitative Studies*

Why a Graduate Certificate Program in Qualitative Studies?

Many of our graduate students matriculate, complete their programs, and compete in the job market for positions to teach and/or to conduct research, supervise, consult, and perform community services related to qualitative research. While our students have the courses and internationally acclaimed UNC-CH faculty, they are not able to claim certification as are their counterparts graduating from Colleges, Schools, and Departments of Education at the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, The University of Alabama, The University of Tennessee, and The University of Memphis among others. The presence of these programs in some of the top universities in the U.S. suggests that there is a growing need for certified graduates who can conduct methodologically sound, rigorous, evidence-based qualitative research. Therefore, if graduates must compete in public and private sectors without the certificate, they may be placed at a disadvantage during application, resume and CV review processes in a tight and challenging job market. A Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Studies will potentially put new graduates ahead of the local, state, and regional competition for employment in their fields.

What is the Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Studies?

The certificate will be available to students who are pursuing a graduate degree in the School of Education as well as students who are enrolled in other graduate programs on campus. Students seeking the certification will have the opportunity to learn qualitative research not only from core education faculty members but also from qualitative faculty members in Nursing, Anthropology, Folklore, and Sociology. Hence, one main purpose of the certificate is to advance interdisciplinary qualitative inquiry through the knowledge, skills, and application of multiple qualitative tools and techniques. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the program will allow students to tailor the focus of their certificate program. Interested graduate students can gain the skills to become professional research consultants, program evaluators, and academicians who understand a variety of qualitative research approaches and are able to conduct qualitative research studies.

Which students may be interested?

Students who wish to….

  • Develop and elucidate a phenomenon of interest. Such phenomena might be related to the broad issues of equity, excellence, power, resistance, access, bias, justice, oppression and other challenges related to the ideal democracy. Other areas of interest could be more context-specific such as an evaluation of an educational program, classroom research and the like. Students will develop 3-5 central research questions related to that phenomenon and/or context of interest;
  • Understand how specific theories and qualitative research methodology work together;
  • Recognize the distinguishing elements of the five major approaches to qualitative research: 1. Ethnography, 2. Case Study, 3. Narrative Inquiry, 4. Grounded Theory, and 5. Phenomenology;
  • Select appropriate qualitative methods and methodological approaches based on their phenomenon or context of interest and 3-5 central research questions en route to developing a sound and relevant research design;
  • Design corresponding data collection protocols: activities, tools, and techniques;
  • Identify ethical and political dilemmas in qualitative research;
  • Conduct rigorous, thoughtful, careful, and credible qualitative research;
  • Generate, collect, prepare, and analyze multiple forms of qualitative data;
  • Articulate the most common pitfalls and promises of the student’s particular qualitative "fieldwork" and develop strategies for addressing them;
  • Compose high-quality qualitative research papers and publications and offer critical academic reviews of qualitative research; and
  • Teach future qualitative researchers how to conduct rigorous, thoughtful, careful, and credible research that can withstand the scrutiny of the blind-peer review process in academia as well as the critiques of those outside of the academy.

*Please note that there is a Graduate Certificate in Participatory Action Research currently housed in the Department of Anthropology. These are complementary but not overlapping certificates. For information about the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Action Research, please contact Dr. Dorothy Holland, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor (dholland@unc.edu ), Department of Anthropology, 409B Alumni Building.