ABE 013

ABE 013 | Qualitative Research Methods for Architecture and the Built Environment

The course presents qualitative research methods for research in architecture, housing, urban planning, management of the built environment and related fields. The course explains qualitative methods in theory and practice, and how to select specific qualitative methods to answer a particular research question. Qualitative methods such as case study, discourse analysis, interviews, focus groups, and historical analysis methods are introduced, together with an overview of mixed methods (qualitative & quantitative). In addition, the course offers an overview of content analysis and hands-on skills of data coding using software such as Atlas.ti. Finally, the course also discusses issues of research integrity and ethical treatment of human research subjects.The unique feature of this course is to combine the qualitative methodology theories with the practice. The peer-reviewed scientific articles of each taught qualitative method will be referred to explain how to formulate the methodological approach, design and describe the qualitative research methodology in practice. The students will learn how to select appropriate methods for their PhD research topics and be able to explain and defend this choice, in the form of methodology section of a scientific article.This course draws on the wealth of diverse research experience of the faculty members from the OTB Department, and the Departments of Architecture and Urbanism. Invited lecturers will contribute to the course by discussing the research methods from the viewpoint of various disciplines within the Architecture and the Built Environment.The course is complementary to other Graduate School courses: ABE009 ‘Research Proposal for Architecture and the Built Environment’ and ABE003 ‘Design and Planning Analytical Tools’, and ABE007 ‘Discovering Statistics Using SPSS’.

Target group

All PhD candidates. Early PhD candidates must have already started their PhD for at least 3 months, and have identified and confirmed their PhD topics with their Promoters.

Learning aims

The aim of this course is to provide the participants with knowledge and basic qualitative research skills necessary to evaluate the adequacy of methods in tackling different research problems and how they can be applied in their own research projects.

Learning objectives

At the end of this course, the students will be able:

  1. to describe broadly the strengths and limitations of basic approaches to qualitative research;
  2. to select appropriate methods for their PhD research projects and be able to explain and defend this choice.
  3. to critically evaluate the methodological choices in the research conducted by their peers;
  4. to formulate the methodological approach, design and describe the research methodology for their PhD research projects.
  5. to effectively communicate the findings of their work both orally and in written form;
  6. to identify and explain the ethical implications of the research methods they chose for their PhD research projects.

Teaching methods

The course consists of a series of lectures, complemented by in-class assignments. The lectures will include interactive elements and critical discussions of sample peer-reviewed papers, and computer learning and practice of software Atlas.ti.


Queena Qian 


Each session, the lecturer may give individual assignment of a particular research method to the students.

Approaching to the end of the course, all the participants are required to submit a written essay on a particular qualitative methodology design for his/her own PhD topic and defend their choice with an oral presentation. The selected qualitative method design can be methods either introduced from this course or from a wider scope.

4-5 lecturers will be invited to as the jury to draw the final evaluation. Peer review are included in the Q&A session of each presentation. 


Overall 40% will be assessed by the individual lecturer(s) in each session. The rest 30% will be assessed based on the written essay. Another 30% will be assessed based on final presentation.

Schedule of Fall 2022

ABE013-1                                                                    20 October 2023
Qualitative Vs Quantitative - mix methods +               12.00 - 15.00 hrs, room Z
systematic literature review                                                         
Paul Chan, Clarine van Oel

ABE013-2                                                                     26 October 2023
Fieldwork and ethnography                                          09.00 - 12.00 hrs, room K 
Leeke Reinders 

ABE013-3                                                                     3 November 2023
Interview                                                                       09.00 - 12.00 hrs, room V 
Joris Hoekstra 

ABE013-4                                                                     9 November 2023
Research by/through design                                        09.00 - 12.00 hrs, room T
Caroline Newton 

ABE013-5                                                                     17 November 2023
Focus group                                                                  09.00 - 12.00 hrs, room T
Joris Hoekstra 

ABE013-6                                                                     24 November 2023  
Case study                                                                   13.00 - 16.00 hrs, room R
Queena Qian 

ABE013-7                                                                     28 November 2023 
Discourse analysis                                                       13.30-16.30 hrs, room P
Roberto Rocco 

ABE013-8                                                                     8 December 2023 
Atlis Ti data analysis tool                                              09.00-12.00 hrs, room P
Marcin Dabrowski                                                      

ABE013-9                                                                     31 January 2024 
Final evaluation (to be confirmed)                                09.00 - 12.00 hrs,
                                                                                     room BG+.Oost.160 

Required reading

Hennink, M., Hutter, I., Bailey, A. (2011), Qualitative Research Methods, Sage.

Recommended references

  1. Bell, J. (1993) Doing Your Research Project, Open University Press.
  2. Bell, J. (1999) Doing your Research Report (3rd edition). Buckingham, Open University Press.
  3. Blaikie, N (2000) Designing Social Research: The Logic of Anticipation. Cambridge: Polity.
  4. Booth, W.C., Colomb, G.G. and Williams, J.M. (2003) The Craft of Research, 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  5. Fellows R. and Liu A. (2008) Research Methods for Construction, 3rd ed., Blackwell- Science.
  6. Holt G. (1998) A Guide to Successful Dissertation Study for Students of the Built Environment, 2nd edition. The Built Environment Research Unit, University of Wolverhampton.
  7. Knight, A. and Ruddock, L. Ed. (2008) Advanced Research Methods in the Built Environment. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
  8. Kopec, D., Sinclair, E. and Matthes, B. (2012), Evidence Based Design. A Process for Research and Writing, Prentice Hall
  9. Lawson, B. and K. Dorst (2009), Design Expertise, Architectural Press
  10. Denzin, N.K., Lincoln, Y.S. (2011), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, Sage.
  11. Bryman, A. (2015), Social Research Methods, Oxford.
  12. Silverman, D. (2010), Doing Qualitative Research, Sage.
  13. Miles, M.B., Huberman, A.M. (2013), Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook, Sage.
  14. Yin, R.K. (2013), Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Sage.
  15. Gerring, J. (2007), Case Study Research: Principles and Practices, Cambridge.

How to enroll

Please send an email with your name, mail address, start date, research group and title of your research to abe@tudelft.nl

Course Info

Course code
ABE 013

Obligatory prerequisite
At least 3 months into your PhD programme with identified research topic. 

Course type

Most appropriate for
A+BE PhD candidates at all stages

Free for PhD candidates of A+BE Graduate School

Number of participants
min. 10/max. 12

Name of lecturer(s)/coach(es)
See left

Course load

Graduate School credits



Twice a year

Upcoming course dates and times
Fall 2023 

For further information, please contact Queena Qian.